10 Mar 2017

Caregiver convicted and discharged over assault of 86-year-old

5:22 pm on 10 March 2017

A former Hamilton rest home worker has been convicted and discharged for assaulting an elderly man in June last year.

Hamilton District Court

Hamilton District Court Photo: RNZ

Sonali Deo, 23, had pleaded guilty to assaulting 86-year-old Piri Hemi, who had dementia.

A secret video recording made by Mr Hemi's family showed her slapping him on his hip and face while trying to roll him over in bed.

At the sentencing at Hamilton District Court today, Judge Kim Saunders told Deo there was no justification for the way she treated Mr Hemi, who was elderly and vulnerable.

The assault was moderately serious but unacceptable behaviour, she said.

The judge said she accepted that it was not easy to care for Mr Hemi and said Deo was inexperienced and completely out of her depth.

However she could have got assistance, and it was clear other caregivers in the home gave Mr Hemi a high standard of care.

"He was alone under your care, vulnerable and totally reliant on you."

Deo applied for a discharge without conviction because she wanted to apply to train as a nurse.

Judge Sanders said a conviction would not preclude Deo from applying for training but it was in the public interest that the Nursing Council was made aware of her conviction. It was up to the council to decide if she would be given registration if she completed a nursing degree course.

Mr Hemi died in early January this year.

Allan and Priscilla Hemi outside Hamilton District Court.

Allan and Priscilla Hemi outside Hamilton District Court. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Speaking outside court today his son and daughter-in-law, Allan and Priscilla Hemi, said they were happy with the sentence.

"I feel like a cloak has been taken off me," said Allan. "It means justice for my Dad."

Allan Hemi said the sentence showed that the justice system recognised what happened was unacceptable.

He was surprised that Deo wanted to train as a nurse. "The audacity of it really," he said.