A sentence handed down to a young father for breaking his infant daughter's legs is "pathetic", a spokesperson for the Sensible Sentencing Trust says.
James Hall, 20, was given a year's home detention at the High Court in Napier yesterday for repeated assaults against his daughter resulting in her legs being broken in five places.
National spokesperson for the lobby group Garth McVicar said he was appalled at the sentence given to Hall in light of the current emphasis placed on child abuse in New Zealand.
"New Zealand has a horrific level of child abuse, and realistically, the judiciary have a responsibility to the community to send a loud and clear message that it is not ok.
"The sentence is not just about the offender, it's about the wider ramifications, and judges should be leading from the front."
Hall earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to injure and a representative charge of causing grievous bodily harm with careless disregard.
His daughter, who was four-months-old at the time, was admitted to hospital with injuries in March last year.
Staff found her left and right femurs were both broken, and there was an older break to her left tibia.
The Crown sought a starting point of four years' jail while Hall's lawyer, Scott Jefferson, sought a starting point of two years.
Justice Mary Peters started at three years and three months. She reduced that for Hall's youth and his early acknowledgement of guilt, and arrived at 12 months' home detention. She also barred him from being with children under 10.
In imposing her sentence, Justice Peters said: "Home detention is not a soft option."
She did not impose community work on top of home detention as she felt it better that Hall complete his apprenticeship as a painter and decorator, so he could provide for his daughter financially.
Former WINZ chief executive Christine Rankin told Newstalk ZB it was "ridiculous" to give the offender a lesser sentence based on his age.
"We've got a minister concentrating on dealing with this issue, and you get 12 months home detention for breaking the legs of a tiny baby.
"So it's ok, if you're young, to break the baby's legs. What if he was 40? He would've got more of a sentence."
According to the police summary, Hall admitted that when alone with his daughter he "grabbed her left foot, pushed it back up so it was bending her whole left leg up behind the baby's back".
He said he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he just was not thinking. "He stated that once or twice he meant to hurt her by bending her leg back in blind anger - not realising what he was actually doing," the summary said.
He also said he squeezed her firmly against his chest three or four times.
The mother, whose name is suppressed, told the court she had known Hall since she was 15 and they were living as a couple.
Hall always offered to care for their baby if she was leaving the house "and never showed any signs of not being able to cope".
Their daughter was usually asleep when she left their home but was always awake on her return, even if she had gone for just five minutes.
The girl "would often cry when James held her. At the time I thought it was just because he was at work all day and they hadn't the chance to form a strong bond yet. Now when I look back I realise it was because she was scared of him".
She had taken the girl to the doctor several times with injuries she was told might have been swelling from insect bites or bruising because her seatbelt was too tight.
"Now I know those bruises were from him squeezing her."