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Court Told Woman Hit Child After He Set Fire To Curtain

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Tauranga, Feb 9 NZPA - A judge has sympathised with a Tauranga woman whose five-year-old son set fire to fabrics in his bedroom but said that was no justification for striking the child, "let alone with a weapon".

Heta Sasulu Faavae, 28, was before Judge Louis Bidois for sentencing in Tauranga District Court on two charges of assault with a long length of dry bamboo.

"There is a high level of provocation when a child sets fire to the curtain and blanket, even though they are only five," he said.

Police prosecutor David Pawson responded: "One could ask what a child is doing with a lighter in the first place."

On the same day, Faavae also hit her seven-year-old daughter with a similar piece of bamboo off a broken table.

Both children were still in the care of wider family members after being removed from home by Child, Youth and Family, the court heard.

A large group of supporters was in court to see the defendant sentenced to 12 months' intensive supervision and 280 hours' community work on both charges.

Interim name suppression allowed at a previous hearing was lifted.

Mr Pawson said Faavae was home with her four children in August last year when she found a curtain burning on the bedroom floor and put out the fire.

The five-year-old was hiding in the lounge.

She asked why he did it before going outside and breaking a length of bamboo from the old table.

Holding the boy by the arm, Faavae hit him six to seven times, at least twice using full-force, full-arm swings, the prosecutor said.

Her mother and other relatives arrived as she was still whacking the child and stopped her.

The defendant said she had hit the boy to discipline him and stop him from setting fires again.

Mr Pawson said Faavae and her partner kept the five-year-old home from school for a week and a half so no-one would see the bruising and red marks on his left arm and legs.

A seven-year-old daughter was also hit with a bamboo stick but Faavae told police she did not remember what had led to that.

Judge Bidois suggested she may have been still stressed about the earlier fire, "which could well have resulted in the house going up in flames".

The defendant -- a first offender -- was clearly ashamed of what she had done and her goal was to do everything possible to regain custody of the children.

More harm than good would be done if he sent Faavae to jail, the judge said, ordering her to undertake relationship counselling and attend an approved parenting programme.

She must also pay $500 emotional harm reparation to her five-year-old son and $250 to his older sister.

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