‘Keep out of gangs’ – jailed dad’s message

Court House-doorwayA man facing a long jail term for injuring his five-year-old son with a heater has spoken from the dock to tell his teenage boy to stay away from gangs.

The man paused to make the impassioned appeal before beginning a six-year eleven-month jail term.

With the judge’s permission, he spoke to his partner who was in court with an infant daughter, and apologised for hurting their son. He said he hoped that one day he could stand in front of her and apologise properly.

He wiped his eyes with his t-shirt as he spoke.

He apologised to his daughter because he had injured the boy while she was present, and to the boy, who was not at court.

But his older son was there, and the man told him: “Please take care of your brothers and sisters and stay away from the gangs. You promise me that. I don’t want you getting hurt.”

The man used a fan heater to burn the face of his five-year-old son.

The family asked for the final suppression order as the man appeared for sentence before Christchurch District Court Judge Alistair Garland, and it was granted.

The judge told the man his prison sentence was to send a message that offending of this kind would not be tolerated.

The 46-year-old man had admitted the charge of disfiguring with intent to causing grievous bodily harm to the boy who was hospitalised with severe burns to most of the right side of his face and ear.

At the time of his guilty plea, Crown prosecutor Karyn South told the court: “Some of the burns are so significant that they have passed through all the layers of his skin.”

The man became angry and lost his temper when the fan heater was knocked over, scorching the floor at the house in Christchurch on July 20.

He grabbed the heater and forcibly pushed the hot metal protective grill at the front of the heater against the boy’s face. When police executed a search warrant the next day, they found the heater that appeared to have burnt skin tissue stuck to the grill.

At the time, the police described the boy’s injuries as horrific, and said they would require major surgery including a long period of skin grafts to reduce the disfigurement.

The man was also appearing for sentence on two charges of receiving stolen property and his 24th conviction for driving while disqualified. The receiving charges, which he admitted, related to building equipment worth $3760 which was found in his house.

Miss South said the number of disqualified driving convictions “shows an on-going total disregard for court orders”.

Defence counsel Bryan Green pointed out that only four of the prior disqualified driving offences had occurred in the last 17 years, and there had been no dishonesty offending since 2000.

The man was given a first-strike warning which imposes heavier sentences on repeat violent offenders.

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