Judges: jailed dad lucky

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

A Pu­taruru fa­ther con­victed of man­slaugh­ter af­ter the death of his baby daugh­ter was lucky not to have gone to jail for longer, Court of Ap­peal judges have sug­gested.

The 12-year jail term im­posed on Joshua Chris Wood­cock, 25, for the death of three-month-old Sarah Had­dock-Wood­cock in 2005 was ‘‘stern’’ but not ex­ces­sive for such con­duct against a baby, Crown lawyer Madeleine Laracy said in writ­ten sub­mis­sions as an ap­peal by Wood­cock was heard in Welling­ton yes­ter­day.

The court of three judges re­served its de­ci­sion on Wood­cock’s ap­peal against both his man­slaugh­ter con­vic­tion and the jail term. But at the end of the hear­ing, two of them said Wood­cock may have been lucky on both counts.

Jus­tice Har­ri­son said the man­slaugh­ter ver­dict as op­posed to be­ing found guilty of murder was a credit to the qual­ity of his trial lawyer Jonathan Temm.

Jus­tice Cham­bers said Wood­cock was prob­a­bly lucky that the 12-year term was not sub­ject to a non-pa­role or­der.

A judge can or­der a pris­oner to serve up to two-thirds of the sen­tence be­fore be­ing con­sid­ered for pa­role but did not make such an or­der in Wood­cock’s case.

The jury had heard that Sarah’s death was caused by a frac­tured skull but a pathol­o­gist found other in­juries in­clud­ing eight frac­tured ribs.

Wood­cock was found guilty of man­slaugh­ter, caus­ing griev­ous bod­ily harm, ne­glect, and a se­ries of as­saults on Sarah. He was 19 when she died.

The main ground of Wood­cock’s con­vic­tion ap­peal was that the jury may not have tried hard enough to reach unan­i­mous ver­dicts be­fore re­turn­ing an 11-1 ver­dict on the man­slaugh­ter charge. Ma­jor­ity ver­dicts were in­tro­duced in June last year.

Lawyer War­ren Pyke said the trial judge had not stressed enough that the jury should try to reach unan­i­mous ver­dicts, and the judge should have steered away from men­tion­ing ma­jor­ity ver­dicts dur­ing his sum­ming up.

But Ms Laracy said there was no risk that the jury would have thought it did not have to reach a unan­i­mous ver­dict. She said ju­rors were told un­am­bigu­ously to reach unan­i­mous ver­dicts un­less di­rected oth­er­wise.

Wood­cock’s sen­tence ap­peal was mainly based on a sub­mis­sion that the judge ap­peared to have ‘‘ dou­ble counted’’ and added ex­tra for the ear­lier as­saults on Sarah as well as tak­ing them into ac­count when fix­ing the term for the man­slaugh­ter.

The Crown agreed there ap­peared to be an el­e­ment of dou­ble-count­ing in the way the judge expressed him­self but the end re­sult was in fact the proper sen­tence.

Wood­cock had orig­i­nally sig­nalled an ap­peal point, based on twice dur­ing the trial it ap­peared mem­bers of the jury were asleep. How­ever, for the hear­ing it was con­ceded that any doz­ing or inat­ten­tion by ju­rors did not ex­tend through the trial.

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