Two small boys have shown “remarkable resilience” after enduring years of serious violence at the hands of a caregiver who was today jailed for eight years nine months.
The caregiver, 60-year-old Shahidan Nisha, appeared upset throughout her Christchurch District Court sentencing on 27 charges by Judge Alistair Garland.
The abuse involved burning one boy’s tongue with a hot spoon handle, burning his cheek with a heated poker, and forcing him to eat 12 hot chilli peppers which left his mouth burned and numb for days.
It also involved daily beatings using household implements, sticks, and a belt, for one of the boys for about eight years, and less frequent beatings for his younger brother.
The woman was also found guilty of repeated assaults on an elderly man – now aged in his 80s and so affected by Alzheimer’s disease so that he could not give evidence at trial.
Crown prosecutor Kathy Basire said the boys – now aged 17 and 13 – had shown “remarkable resilience”.
“It is hoped that in future years they will be able to recover from the offending,” she said.
The victims had suffered more than physical harm from the impact of the offending. Witnesses had painted a clear and distressing picture of the lives the boys were leading. “They suffered psychological effects for a long period. For the children, the offending impacted every area of their live including their abilities to make friends, and that continues.”
Defence counsel Arlan Arman urged the judge to take account of Nisha’s age and her good character up until this time in her life. He said: “We can only speculate as to why she did these things. In all other areas of her life she has been a relatively upstanding person.”
Nisha continues to deny the offending took place, which means rehabilitation and treatment programmes in prison are unlikely and she can expect to face parole delays.
One boy read his victim impact statement to the court and the other document was read our by Miss Basire. The boys told of having trouble making friends and trusting people. The older brother said: “I would sometimes take the rap so I would get hit instead of him (his younger brother).”
The boys said they expected to get more beatings if they told anyone about what was happening.
The younger boy said: “I was sad and angry that family members saw things happening and didn’t do anything about it.”
They said they had more confidence since the offending was stopped. One said he had been terrified of Nisha and the other said her violence “really messed me up”.
Judge Garland detailed the array of violence meted out to the boys and the elderly man. They were hit, kicked, punched, beaten with household items including sticks, and one boy was burnt in the mouth with the heated handle of a spoon. It left him unable to eat or drink for two days.
On another day, Nisha tried to burn his mouth with a fire poker. She did not succeed but it pressed against his cheek and burnt it. One of the boys told the court that she would hold them around the eye to make them do what she wanted.
They were beaten for offences such as playing when they were supposed to be sleeping, not doing household tasks, or making complaints. They were told to say the injuries were from playing soccer.
The man was punched in the stomach or face – sometimes breaking his spectacles – for speaking or for not earning enough money at his job.
Judge Garland said: “It is my sense that these two children desperately needed a loving and nurturing environment, and the same can be said for the man. Sadly that was denied by you and they were subjected to a seriously abusive environment for a protracted period.”
He told Nisha: “I regard the use of the hot spoon and poker to punish the child as very serious violence.”
Nisha, who is from Fiji, was assisted in court by a Hindi interpreter.