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Punishment of 3-year-old girl was 'prolonged bullying’

Felicity Dear, Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Fri, 9 Feb 2024, 10:52AM
Photo / 123rf
Photo / 123rf

Punishment of 3-year-old girl was 'prolonged bullying’

Felicity Dear, Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Fri, 9 Feb 2024, 10:52AM

Warning: Article discusses physical abuse of a child 

A man’s punishment of a 3-year-old girl which involved push-ups, sit-ups, cold showers and eating frozen bread was “prolonged bullying”, a judge says. 

Stewart Douglass Smart, 32, appeared in the Invercargill District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to assaulting a child.  

He was sentenced to home detention, which prompted the victim’s mother to unload a barrage of expletives regarding the psychological damage her girl had suffered. 

The court heard that, in 2022, Smart took on a parental role for his partner’s two young children. 

He would direct most of his cruelty towards the youngest child while she was toilet training. 

When the girl had accidents, the defendant forced her to take cold showers and yelled at her to stop crying. 

He would also make both children do push-ups and sit-ups as punishment for misbehaving. 

If they refused to eat their dinner, he would serve them frozen bread. 

On March 26, the victim’s mother woke to her daughter screaming in the bathroom, where she was with the defendant. 

The next morning, while she was dressing the girl, she noticed bruising on her lower back and buttock. 

She and the victim walked to the police station to report the incident. 

Smart followed them and pleaded with the mother not to report it. 

He said he did not mean to hit the girl as hard as he had and threatened to kill himself if she informed police of the events. 

Eventually, they all went back to the mother’s house without making a complaint. 

A week later, once the man had left the house, the mother made a police report. 

Counsel Keith Owen said his client was a product of his environment as he had experienced harsh discipline as a child. 

He had also suffered a head injury in a gang attack. 

Judge Murray Hunt said the offending was serious and required a stern response. 

“This is not discipline gone wrong. 

“This is violence inflicted on a 3-year-old girl.” 

The offending would have had a “profound effect” on the child and would impact her ability to trust adults, the judge said. 

“[This was] calculated and prolonged bullying ... against a young, defenceless child.” 

Judge Hunt sentenced Smart to five months’ home detention. 

He noted there was already a protection order made in favour of the mother and child. 


How to get help:
If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people. Scream for help so 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: Crisis line - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 (available 24/7)
 Shine: Helpline - 0508 744 633 (available 24/7)
 It's Not Ok: Family violence information line - 0800 456 450
 Shakti: Specialist services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and children.
• Crisis line - 0800 742 584 (available 24/7)
 Ministry of Justice: For information on family violence
 Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga: National Network of Family Violence Services
 White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women.
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