Two manslaughter convictions

Last week was a bad week for child abuse deaths. There is little Moko, three, and oh god the article detailing the abuse, no words for that, still reeling. There’s a lot of public criticism over the prosecution’s decision to accept a guilty plea for manslaughter instead of proceeding to a murder trial. But I think it was the right call, jury could easily have returned a manslaughter verdict anyway. Sentencing is this week and I won’t be surprised if it’s the highest manslaughter sentence New Zealand has ever issued, even allowing for guilty plea reduction.

The second case is less horrific. It’s really sad. An 18 year old mother, home alone with the 7 week old baby, flipped out from the crying and shook the baby. Baby died the next day. She pleaded guilty to manslaughter too. The coroner’s report hasn’t come out yet. The sentencing notes are brief, but telling:

On three separate occasions when he was crying and unsettled, you
responded by picking him up and rocking him to a point that you were shaking him.

You acknowledged eventually in your Police interview that you were angry with him because he would not keep quiet and that at one point you yelled at him to be quiet.

You have said that you became stressed out and frustrated because Milton would not stop crying. You rocked him and shook him to stop him crying. You could not control yourself.

Regrettably as I say in New Zealand such offending and the tragic outcome
of it is all too common. Young and defenceless infants or children are killed by young and inadequate parents who do not have sufficient skills or maturity to enable them to cope with the responsibilities and demands of parenthood, despite the resources that are available for support in such cases.

You were only 18 years old at the time of this incident. You are immature for your age. You, as I have noted, suffered severe abuse and trauma as a child and suffer personal psychological dysfunction. This was a one-off incident. You were a very young and ill-equipped new mother.

I’ll be interested to see the coroner’s recommendations. “Despite the resources available” seems to contradict “all too common”.

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