Jurors stand by their disputed cruelty verdict

Sunday Star Times 27/03/2011

Jurors who acquitted a man charged with child cruelty – despite him admitting to washing his son’s mouth out with soap, forcing him to have his hair shaved, and tying him to his wrist – have defended their decision. The man and his wife used the controversial Section 59 defence in their November case for charges of child cruelty, setting a new benchmark on what is acceptable child discipline. In the Star-Times last week, lead juror Deanne Shilton spoke out on why the jury in the man’s trial acquitted him – saying the father was a normal parent doing his best in trying circumstances. Since then, other jurors have spoken out. One fellow woman juror – who does not want to be named – said the case was “a bloody farce from the word go”. “It shouldn’t have gone to court at all.” She said the jury accepted the father had washed his son’s mouth out with soap, forced him to have his hair shaved, and tied him to his wrist to stop him running away, but believed that qualified as being within the legal standard of normal parental discipline.