A Rotorua mother has failed in her attempt to have a conviction for ill-treating her child overturned, following a car crash when she drove "significantly" intoxicated.

Kirsty Bentley was found guilty of one charge of ill-treatment of a child following a jury trial in the Rotorua District Court.

The charge followed a crash, caused when Bentley lost control of the vehicle she was driving and crossed the centre line, then rolling.

Her seven-month-old daughter was restrained in her car seat at the time of the crash, and suffered bruising but no other injuries.


She entered a guilty plea and was charged with five other offences related to the same crash.

Bentley was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the offending and was emotionally upset following an argument with her partner.

She had appealed against her conviction in the Court of Appeal last month, specifically raising an issue about the prosecution's lack of proof she appreciated her conduct was likely to cause suffering or injury at the time of the offence.

A ruling dismissing her appeal was released today.

A summary of facts published with the Court of Appeal decision outlined how Bentley and her daughter had been returning from a family holiday in Ohope to their home near Okere Falls near Rotorua when the crash occurred.

Bentley was only a short distance from her home when she lost control, crossed over the centre line, went off the road and rolled. Photo / File
Bentley was only a short distance from her home when she lost control, crossed over the centre line, went off the road and rolled. Photo / File

A disagreement over whether to make a detour to visit her mother in Kawerau caused a "heated" argument with Bentley's partner.

Her partner drove there nevertheless and arrived about midday.

When Bentley got out of her car, her partner drove off with their daughter. She called him, bidding him to return to meet her at her mother's house, and he turned up some time later.

The trio left Kawerau but continued to argue. A disagreement over the music in the car resulted in her partner punching Bentley on the side of her head, then pulling over and jumping out of the car.

When he walked off, Bentley attempted to locate him but had no luck.

Despite having consumed about eight rum and cokes on the journey, she then jumped behind the wheel - planning on driving home.

The court's decision noted it was a remote rural location with no public transport, and the distance to the couple's home was over 25km.

After another motorist helped her re-start her car due to a flat battery, and Bentley then carried on her way.

She was only a short distance from home when she lost control, crossed the centre line and went off the road - causing the vehicle to roll on to its side.

The Rotorua woman was charged with six offences related to the incident - failing to give her name and address on demand; refusing to give a blood specimen; resisting police; refusing to accompany a police officer; careless driving; and ill-treatment or neglect of a child under 18 years.

She was sentenced to 150 hours' community work after entering a guilty plea to the first five charges, and another four months' community detention with nine months' supervision on the ill-treatment or neglect charge.

In the initial decision made in the District Court, the jury was directed to consider whether Bentley's conduct had been likely to cause injury to her daughter, as well as whether her conduct was intentional.

The final question was directed to whether Bentley's conducted amounted to a "major departure" from the standard of care to be expected of a reasonable person.

In the Court of Appeal decision, the earlier judge's question trail and directions were deemed appropriate and the standing decision were subject to "no dispute".

The appeal against conviction was therefore dismissed.