By Robin Martin of rnz.co.nz
Two years to the day after her eldest child died in a suspected suicide a New Plymouth woman has been jailed on charges of neglect, cruelty and violence against her children.
The 34-year-old was sentenced to four years and three months in jail on charges of neglect, cruelty and violence against her children at the New Plymouth District Court this afternoon.
She faced nine representative charges involving three girls who were aged between three and six years old when the offending began.
Her offending, which spanned more than six years, came to light after an incident involving the oldest child in June 2017, who died two days later.
In a filmed victim impact statement, one of the girls now aged 13 fought back tears as she explained life was "shit" with their mother and they were beaten every day.
"Before my sister died living with mum was shit. The days always used to be the same. Wake up get a hiding from mum, go to school, come home get a hiding. Mum takes synthetics I get a hiding."
The teenager said she now suffered panic attacks, couldn't find the words to express herself and found her feelings towards her mother confusing.
"I think that it is shit that I am here having to do this. I find it really confusing because I hate my mother for what she did to me but I still love her. I don't understand how I can still love her but I just do."
Her mother, dressed in prison clothes, held her head in her hands and sobbed audibly. The teenager said her mother hit the children with her hands, fists and kitchen utensils.
She said her mum hit her elder sister because "she was pretty", while she got hit because "I reminded her of my dad".
"I always had bruises from hidings."
Their mother always found money for drugs but the children never got enough food, she said, and the more drugs her mother took the worse the beatings got.
"I was really scared when mum hit me but felt there was nothing I could do to make it stop."
She recounted one time a friend of her mother had jumped into her eldest sister's bed.
"I was woken when she screamed. I don't know what happened to her, but whatever it was she told mum and mum never did anything about it."
Following her sister's death, the teenager went to live with relatives in the South Island.
"It was only then, as an 11-year-old girl, I was taught I needed to shower every day. I learnt to tie my shoelaces, I learnt how to use a knife and fork, I learnt how to wash my hair and I learnt it was not okay to have nits."
Crown Prosecutor Justin Marinovich also read from the victim impact statement of another of the girls, now aged 12.
"She used to ragdoll us to the ground and slap us to the face. To ragdoll us she would pull our hair and drag us across the floor.
Mr Marinovich said the aggravating factors in the case included the length of the offending, the attempt to conceal the offending, and its extreme cruelty.
"Aside from any physical violence the offender would regularly call the victims 'sluts, whores, fat bitches, ugly, nothing but meat on the ground, and regularly say to them that she wished they had never been born."
Mr Marinovich said the offender had "psychologically butchered the victims".
He said although the home environment was not conclusively linked to the eldest daughter's death, it was also not one where she would have been able to seek assistance.
It was her death that resulted in the authorities being called and the remaining two victims being removed from the house.
Mr Marinovich asked that the woman be jailed for six-and-a-half years.
Defence council Paul Keegan said the woman was remorseful and blamed herself for the offending. He said she had suffered abuse as a child herself, was undergoing counselling and was willing to do more.
"Her father is described as very violent and her mother as an alcoholic who was verbally and physically abusive. The defendant reports her childhood memories of her mother are of her being continually on the piss and being taken from party to party. The defendant reports being frequently sexually abused.
"The cycle of neglect, of abuse, as demonstrated in this case with the defendant observing she has essentially become her mother. This is no doubt linked to the offending."
In sentencing, Judge Gregory Hikaka referred to the summary of facts and noted the children often went to school without having had breakfast or bringing lunch with them and that the school fed them.
"All three girls were infested with headlice for the majority of the time they attended this particular school. There were times when one of the staff reported being able to see lice crawling down one of the children's neck."
Judge Hikaka said the eldest had behaviour problems and was often stood down from school.
"They would take her home and find you stoned and unable to construct meaningful sentences. On one occasion your mother was present and in an intoxicated and incoherent state and another person was unconscious on the floor.
"It came to the point where they could no longer stand your daughter down because they thought she was unsafe in her home."
Judge Hikaka said the defendant had been drinking for more than 13 hours on the day her eldest daughter returned home and harmed herself.
"While the prosecution do not try and link, conclusively, the suicide of your eldest daughter to your offending I would say there is an inference that could be drawn with the misery that she lived in and how she ended her life."
Judge Hikaka did not set a minimum parole period, preferring to leave release conditions in the hands of the parole board because of the "considerable progress" the defendant had been making while in custody.