Doubt over intent key to man being convicted on lesser charge
JUDGE John Strettell yesterday found there was insufficient proof a Queenstown Lakes man intended to cause grievous bodily harm to his infant son last year.
However, at the outset of a twoday trial held in the Queenstown District Court this week the man, who has interim name suppression, entered an intimated guilty plea to an alternative charge of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Judge Strettell yesterday convicted the man on that charge and remanded him on bail ahead of sentencing.
The man was charged after he was woken from his sleep by his 23dayold son, who was lying next to him in bed on March 13 last year.
The court heard the defendant, who was 32 years old at the time, felt frustrated and angry at the time, caused by stress and sleep deprivation.
He reached out his left arm and picked the infant up around his right elbow, moved the child in front of him and squeezed the baby around the torso for 10 to 15 seconds.
The infant sustained a fracture to the left upper arm and fractures to 13 ribs, on both sides of his spine.
At issue was whether or not the man formed an intention to cause grievous bodily harm to his son.
Clinical psychologist Geoffrey Shirley gave evidence the man, at the time of the incident, was suffering from anxiety which was causing sleep deprivation and was exhibiting numerous signs of clinical depression.
He found a person with those characteristics ‘‘could in some circumstances fail to have full cognitive function’’, Judge Strettell said.
Crown prosecutor Riki Donnelly, however, contended the man was still aware his actions had consequences, was experienced in handling fragile young babies and knew seriously mishandling them would cause serious harm.
Judge Strettell said it was relevant the entire incident spanned a maximum of 20 seconds and occurred immediately after the defendant had been woken.
‘‘The timing is significant and central to the issue of the forming of intent.’’
The question was whether he formed the intent to harm his child, or whether the harm was caused by recklessness.
Taking all matters into consideration, Judge Strettell said there was ‘‘room for doubt . . . [he] actually formed the intention’’.
‘‘Consequently the [lead] charge has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.’’