Hastings mother sent to prison for years of child abuse

The woman appeared before Judge Phillip Cooper at Hastings District Court. Photo/NZME

A woman who starved her daughter to malnutrition for years in a ‘high end child abuse’ case has been sent to jail.

Doctors believe the girl may never reach her proper height due to the treatment she received.

Hastings District Court was told yesterday that the girl, now 7, was of the general developmental age of a 4-year-old. His gross motor skills, which include running, jumping and catching a ball, are those of a 3-year-old.

The woman, whose name is withheld, appeared before Judge Phillip Cooper after pleading guilty to two representative charges of child abuse. She was sentenced to two years and three months in prison.

The girl is now in the care of an aunt and is doing well, but has ongoing developmental issues, the judge said.

Crown Attorney Steve Manning described his case as a “high-end child abuse” case.

He said the “crux of the matter” was why the mother was treating her daughter the way she did while still being a good mother to other children.

Judge Cooper said those involved in the case had been “unable to comprehend” this, as the other children were being looked after perfectly well.

However, he said the child was born prematurely and the mother may have felt the difficulties this caused. She also perceived the child as “needy” after the attentive care of nurses for the first four months of his life.

The charges, which covered the mother’s continued behavior towards the child over two periods between 2016 and 2020, and in 2021, said the woman deprived her daughter of food and nutrition, exposing her to the likelihood of starvation and of “growth retardation”.

Last year, the girl was hospitalized and diagnosed with chronic malnutrition, according to a Crown Facts Summary.

He said the woman regularly fed her only once a day and treated her differently from her siblings. The girl was not allowed to eat with other family members and often had to wait until they were done before being offered leftovers.

“The defendant admitted knowing that the victim was regularly hungry and often asked for more food,” the summary reads.

The mother also stopped relatives and daycare workers from feeding the starving daughter, telling them her daughter had allergies or intestinal issues.

At the age of 6, she was very thin and at 94 cm, the height of a normal 3-year-old child.

“His short stature was diagnosed as a result of psychosocial dwarfism,” the summary of facts states. “This is a syndrome caused by maternal emotional deprivation, stress and neglect.”

He said doctors said doctors had reported that she may never reach her “normative” size.

The girl lived for several months with her grandmother, who said she had a huge appetite and did not know when to stop eating.

Under the care of her grandmother, the girl’s weight increased to 18.5 kg. She returned to her mother’s care just before her fifth birthday and within weeks her weight was down to 15kg.

An aunt offered to take care of the child, but the mother refused. A cousin offered to help her, but the mother told her the girl was “just an attention seeker”.

The summary also stated that the girl was sometimes kept in a cold room with wet hair and no blankets, was forced to sleep in an inflatable pool and was not enrolled in school so that questions would not be asked. the lack of food she received.

Judge Cooper said the woman had a difficult and sometimes dysfunctional upbringing. She was disconnected from her Maori culture, but it was hard to see how that related to her delinquency, especially since she looked after other children well.

Postnatal depression was a possibility but was not observed when she treated the girl in hospital, as might have been expected.

“You have become very resentful of the extra care and attention [the girl received] and it became more ingrained over time,” Judge said.

Judge Cooper ordered the removal of the woman’s name and all identifying details.

He said publishing the woman’s name would also identify the children and cause them extreme hardship.

The charges carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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