A man with a broken leg hit an eight-year-old with a plastic walking crutch because the boy had misbehaved at school — so the child contacted the Department of Communities for help.
The 33-year-old Gold Coast man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, yesterday pleaded guilty to a charge of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm while armed with an offensive instrument.
The Southport District Court was told the man had been in a de facto relationship with a woman and her two sons at the time of the incident in May 2004.
He had just been released from hospital suffering a broken leg and was walking with the assistance of a crutch. The man was on morphine.
A telephone call from the boy's school about his poor behaviour caused the man and the boy's mother to become aggravated [agitated]. The mother first hit her son with the walking crutch and then held the boy as her de facto husband struck him twice on the leg. The boy was then sent to his room and told to write "lines".
The next day, the boy contacted the Department of Communities, which immediately removed him and his brother from the house and placed them in care. Police and departmental officers noticed a large, tender bruise on the boy's upper thigh, and the man was subsequently charged with assault.
Barrister Chris Rosser, representing the man, said his client had since separated from the woman and her children.
Mr Rosser said the man had taken an active role in raising the child, who was not his natural son, and had been frustrated by his continual problems at school.
Mr Rosser also remarked that the boy's mother had not been charged with any offence, even though she had also smacked the boy with the crutch and had held him as her partner administered similar punishment.
"He felt he was entitled to discipline the child, and smacking was one way to do it. Of course, doing it with an instrument is not allowed by law," Mr Rosser said.
He argued his client should be credited for entering a guilty plea, and for sparing the child the anguish of giving evidence in court.
Mr Rosser also asked that the court refrain from recording a conviction, as his client was due to travel to the US in the new year to participate in a sporting competition. A criminal conviction was likely to hinder his application for entry into the US.
Prosecutor Bronwyn Currie asked the court to hand down a community-based sentence.
"The level of violence was unacceptable and beyond the proper view of punishment," Ms Currie said.
Judge John Newton said the man's actions were "foolish" and carried "undoubted seriousness.(But) there is little to be gained by requiring him to undergo probation," Mr Newton said.
He fined the man $600 and did not record a conviction against him. Outside court, Mr Rosser said prosecutions against people who disciplined children were becoming more common.
"Judges are in tune with changes in society as far as the disciplining of kids." he said.