7 Sep 2015

Mother on trial over toddler's burned hands

5:22 pm on 7 September 2015

A woman who failed to take her toddler to the doctor after he suffered burns so severe his fingers eventually fused together has gone on trial in the Wellington District Court.

The mother, whose name is suppressed for legal reasons, is facing several charges, including wounding the two-year-old with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm and wilfully neglecting him.

Crown Prosecutor Andru Isac told the jury today the boy's injuries were discovered by police attending a noise complaint at the woman's home in August 2012.

He said the child was seen by a paediatrician, who estimated the injuries were at least three months old.

The woman is charged with wounding the boy between November 2011 and the end of May 2012.

Mr Isac said the little boy had significant scarring to his fingers, consistent with both his hands being immersed in hot liquid, and as a result of the healing process his hands had become fused together.

The injuries were not accidental and the woman deliberately placed the child's hands in very hot liquid, he said.

However, she told the police she had put the boy's baby bottle into a bowl of boiling water on a table in her lounge.

She said she went back in the kitchen to cook and then saw the basin tip over on to the floor.

The other charges regarding wilfully neglecting the child and failing to seek medical assistance related to what happened after the boy suffered the burns.

Mr Isac said the woman allowed them to heal without treatment but she said she put cream and bandages on them.

When the police asked her why she did not take the boy to a doctor, she said she had other commitments which stopped her doing so, even though there was a medical centre just down the road.

Mother sought help for herself

The jury was told the woman had seen a doctor herself between the time the burns occurred and when the boy's injuries were discovered by the police.

The Crown also said the woman did not give the boy any pain relief.

The two-year-old endured a five-hour operation and skin grafts to both hands to help him gain back some use of his fingers.

Defence lawyer Brett Crowley said the Crown had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the woman deliberately set out to cause serious harm and the defence would be that she did not.

He said it was one thing not to take proper care of a child but, in this case, the Crown was saying it would be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt the woman deliberately set out to harm her son.

Mr Crowley said his client told the authorities her son had dipped his hands in a bowl of boiling water while trying to get his baby bottle out of it.

He said while the jury might not think it was safe for the woman to leave the bowl lying on the table, the question for jurors was how had the injuries occurred and whether they could be satisfied the boy was not injured by reaching into the bowl.

The trial, before a jury of eight women and four men, will hear from eight witnesses for the Crown.