Doubt over in­tent key to man be­ing con­victed on lesser charge

Otago Daily Times - - Regions - TRACEY ROXBURGH

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.’’

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