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Family sentenced for child's hot car death

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/06/2017

The mother and grandmother of an eight-month-old boy who died in a hot car while they smoked drugs have been jailed for three years each.

The family members of Isaiah Neil - also known as Te Whetu - were sentenced in the High Court at Rotorua on Friday.

The infant died after being left in a hot car while his caregivers smoked synthetic cannabis at Taneatua in 2015.

His mother Lacey Te Whetu, who admitted manslaughter, and grandmother, Donna Parangi, 52, who was found guilty of manslaughter by a jury, were both sentenced to three years' jail.

Isaiah's father, Shane Neil, who also pleaded guilty to manslaughter, is eligible for home detention and his sentencing was put off until a suitable address could be found.

Justice Graham Lang told Parangi by leaving Isaiah in a car for three hours she'd undoubtedly placed him in considerable danger.

"Those entrusted with the care of children have a statutory obligation or provide them with care and necessaries of life," he said.

He said smoking synthetic cannabis made her culpable.

"You made the decision to consume synthetic cannabis in circumstances where you knew Isaiah was in the vehicle and that it was likely to send you to sleep," he said.

Parangi's lawyer Susan Gray told the court her client would live with the consequences of what she had done for the rest of her life.

""She has been and will be forever punished by her actions on that day," she said.

Justice Lang said Parangi was a hard-working woman whose mental health was in a fragile state.

He told the court Te Wheut had seen there was was something wrong after the infant was brought into the house, but chose to ignore it by putting him down in his cot for a sleep.

"Your use of cannabis has had effect on hour ability to care for your children,." Justice Lang told the mother.

Her lawyer Bill Lawson said she had suffered a significant addiction to synthetic cannabis which led to distorted thinking.

She was deeply remorseful, had turned her life around and hadn't discounted becoming a mother again, he said.

Justice Lang accepted Neil hadn't left Isaiah in the vehicle but when he'd removed him from it and seen his distressed state, he hadn't immediately called emergency services because his judgement too was clouded by drugs.

Neil's lawyer, Roger Laybourn, said his client had tried to remedy the situation by pouring hot water over him.

During the trial, experts said they believed the temperature in the car would have been as high as 45C for between 90 minutes and two hours.

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