Siblings assaulted over spilled toothpaste

Open Justice,
Publish Date
Tue, 17 May 2022, 8:39pm
A 12 year-old boy's life was left in tatters after being assaulted by his stepfather when he tried to help his younger sibling. Photo / 123RF
A 12 year-old boy's life was left in tatters after being assaulted by his stepfather when he tried to help his younger sibling. Photo / 123RF

Siblings assaulted over spilled toothpaste

Open Justice,
Publish Date
Tue, 17 May 2022, 8:39pm

When Shaun Sinclair's young son tried to clean his teeth in the hallway of their home early one morning, it sparked a chain of events leading to what is now a serious black mark on his own life. 

His little boy, then aged 5 but with the development age of a 3-year-old was up early that morning in September 2020. His efforts to clean his teeth led to toothpaste being spilled on the floor. 

Sinclair got up, saw what had happened and began yelling at the child to clean it up. The yelling prompted his stepson who was 12 at the time, to try to help. 

The two boys then went to a bedroom to get changed, but the yelling continued so they returned to the hallway to clean up the toothpaste. 

Sinclair approached and "kneed" the younger boy in the back before shoving him in the toothpaste on the floor and making him cry. He later complained of a sore head and was seen holding his mouth with both hands. 

The father of a 5-year-old who was assaulted after spilling toothpaste on the floor has been sentenced to community detention. Photo / 123RF 

The older boy then pushed Sinclair, who then grabbed the boy from behind, pinning his arms so he couldn't move them. 

In the Nelson District Court today, Judge Jo Rielly said the stepson going to the aid of younger children in the family had emerged as a common theme. 

The commotion caused others in the household to get up, including another sibling who tried to stop Sinclair from holding the boy, and the mother who helped the younger boy crying on the floor. 

After the 12-year-old had retreated into the lounge, Sinclair followed him, telling him to "go clean up the f***ing wall", after the boy had accidentally kicked a hole in it while lashing out at Sinclair. 

When the boy responded that he couldn't, Sinclair grabbed him around the throat with one hand and slapped him across the face. 

The commotion ended when the boy fled from the home and headed for school. He later complained of struggling to swallow, and that his ear was ringing after he was slapped. 

Judge Rielly told Sinclair of the severe impacts on children from violence in the home – not only the physical hurt but also the deep psychological wounds. 

In this case, one of the victims was a young and defenceless child, which was why his older brother came to his aid. 

"Your biological son and your stepson should have been entitled to feel safe and free from threats of violence in their home," Judge Rielly said in sentencing Sinclair. 

The 33-year-old carpet layer, who is now living in Christchurch, was saved from a harsher penalty by the fact he had a good job. 

From a start point of 12 months in prison, Sinclair - who initially denied the two charges of assaulting a child - was given credit for eventually admitting them, which saved the boys from the rigours of a trial. 

He was also saved from a sentence of home detention by the Crown's agreement that a community sentence was appropriate, given that he had a full-time job. 

Judge Rielly said the stepson's victim impact statement was "extraordinarily sad reading". 

He had needed to move out of the family home, away from his siblings and had been put in a situation of having to make new friends. 

"He was disappointed, upset and angry when you did this," Judge Rielly told Sinclair who appeared via audiovisual link from the Christchurch court. 

She recounted some of the stepson's statements including how he had tried to help his siblings, and how Sinclair got angry if anyone did anything wrong. 

"He is angry at you for hurting him," Judge Rielly said. 

She said while the stepson had complained of the physical effects of what happened, a far greater impact was the emotional toll it had taken, including that he had expressed to others that he had wanted to take his own life, after the great sense of loss and how his family had been torn apart. 

Judge Rielly said the stepson, who at the time was a boy entering his teens, still worried, and still had nightmares about what happened. It had impacted on his sense of safety and happiness. 

She sentenced Sinclair to six months community detention – the maximum term, with a 7pm to 7am curfew daily, plus 12 months' intensive supervision. 

Sinclair was also ordered to complete a family violence programme, and a protection order was imposed in favour of the stepson. 

Judge Rielly said while it was "concerning, offending behaviour" Sinclair had complied with his bail terms and had taken steps that showed he wanted to improve. 

"Today the words I have uttered may have seemed harsh but I want you to reflect on the harm this has had on the children," Judge Rielly told Sinclair on completion of the sentencing. 

SUICIDE AND DEPRESSION Where to get help: 
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7) 
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7) 
• Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234 (available 24/7) 
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7) 
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (12pm to 11pm) 
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or text 4202 (available 24/7) 
• Anxiety helpline: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) (available 24/7) 
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155 
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111. 


If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111. 

If you're in danger now: 

  • Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
  • Run outside and head for where there are other people.
  • Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
  • Take the children with you.
  • Don't stop to get anything else.
  • If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information: 

  • Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843


  • Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633


  • It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450


  • Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
  • Ministry of Justice:


  • National Network of Stopping Violence:


  • White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.


- by Tracy Neal, Open Justice