Two social workers were adamant they saw the mother slap the girl in the face. (File photo)
A mother recently found guilty of assaulting her young daughter had been previously charged with hitting the girl in front of social workers, but was let off after a judge found it could only have been a “momentary touch”.
The mother was last month found guilty of repeatedly hitting her daughter, 9, over several days before applying paint to her face to cover bruising and putting her on a plane in order to avoid social workers.
The girl flew as an unaccompanied minor on a flight from Napier to Christchurch on the morning of June 24 last year. Her injuries were discovered by two cabin crew after they removed the face paint.
The woman, who cannot be named, is in custody until her sentencing in January.
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Stuff can now reveal that the woman appeared in the same court – Napier District – in 2017, charged with hitting her daughter, who was 6 at the time.
The alleged assault occurred when two social workers arrived at the woman’s house in early 2017 to collect the girl and her two siblings to take them into Oranga Tamariki care under an interim custody order.
At the trial before Judge David Saunders the two social workers said they were adamant that during the handover there was a physical interaction between the mother and the girl.
According to Smith’s judgment, the social workers were surprised at the mother’s actions given that it occurred in the presence of them as well as police officers.
The judge said “the mother leaned across and with a slapping action slapped the child … on the back of the head”.
The girl did not appear to be injured “but the social workers looked at each other and were surprised to see that action in fact occurred, particularly given the circumstances in which the incident was happening”, the judge said.
The mother was adamant she did not touch the girl. Two other witnesses, there to support the mother, also said there was no such hit.
Judge Saunders said the court was faced with two professionals, who had given “clear evidence on oath” they witnessed the assault, but the atmosphere at the uplift was a difficult one with heightened emotion, and he thought the mother probably made an “intentional application towards the daughter to get her attention”.
He thought “probably there was some physical interaction between the mother and the child” but he could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt so could not find the charge proved.
If it did occur “it was of a very transitory and momentary touching of the girl” and may well have been explained by the emotional situation and the mother may have been trying to get the girl’s attention before the handover took place, the judge said.
He dismissed the charge.
The three children were placed in the custody of Oranga Tamariki, but the organisation later put them back in their mother’s care. They were removed following the incident last year.