A brain-damaged 5-year-old girl was kept in a kennel and an old freezer, had a cattle prod used on her, was burned and was dragged behind a motorbike, her older sister claims.

The horrific abuse was outlined in Parliament yesterday by National MP Paul Hutchison, who has asked Police Commissioner Rob Robinson to launch an inquiry into the handling of the case by the authorities.

Under parliamentary privilege he questioned the 280-hour community work sentence given to the girl's mother, Cassandra Marie-Rose Edwards, 31, and her partner, Bruce Lloyd Potaka, 26, in June when they appeared in the Wanganui District Court .

Speaking during debate on the Care of Children Bill, Dr Hutchison said the pair were charged with child cruelty but should have faced more serious charges given the injuries the girl received following an incident in June 2002 at a Taihape address.

According to the newspaper report of the sentencing, Edwards tripped over the girl while carrying a load of firewood.

The couple neglected to get her medical attention and were charged with child cruelty.

But the girl was later found to have suffered a life-threatening brain injury and was lucky to be alive, the court was told. She is now in the care of her grandmother.

Dr Hutchison tabled reports outlining medical evidence showing extensive physical and emotional abuse.

For example, the girl's older sister, now aged 10, had described how her sister was kept for long periods in a dog kennel and freezer by the couple, and had a cattle prod used on her.

Burns were also inflicted on her and she was tied to the back of a motorbike and dragged.

A neuropsychologist's report tabled by Dr Hutchison expressed hope that for the sake of the family and the community at large there would be "further police investigation".

"[The girl] has been severely physically and emotionally abused and the perpetrator is still out in the community and is therefore free to engage in further abuse of children."

Dr Hutchison said the paediatrician who examined the girl after the 2002 incident found through a brain scan that she had suffered head trauma of a severity not seen in simple households accidents.

He said he was stunned by the light sentence handed down to the couple by Judge Michael Crosbie.

"How does this equate to a life living with multiple brain injuries?"


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