Fine for stepdad who belted child with belt
A STEPFATHER who disciplined his partner's child with a belt across the back has copped a bigger penalty on appeal following an "unduly lenient" $250 fine.
Supreme Court judge Gregory Geason said it was important the courts made it "very clear" those who assaulted vulnerable children would be met with a "stern response" - increasing the fine to $850.
In his newly-released appeal judgment, Justice Geason said Daniel John Pettit, 27, left a bruise on the five-year-old's back in October 2018 after he'd been "naughty all day".
Pettit admitted the conduct, adding he'd intended to hit the boy's buttocks, but claimed he'd acted lawfully - as Tasmanian law allows the use of reasonable force on children "by way of correction".
In July last year, Pettit was found guilty of common assault in the Burnie Magistrates Court when it was found the force he used wasn't reasonable in the circumstances.
Magistrate Leanne Topfer said Pettit was significantly larger than the boy, had used a belt, and had struck hard enough to leave a bruise.
But she also said it was likely a "one-off" incident, the child wasn't distressed at school, and the couple was "by-in-large doing a good job as parents".
Tasmania Police appealed Pettit's "manifestly inadequate" $250 fine, arguing Ms Topfer made an error by not considering his prior convictions in NSW, that the assault was a breach of trust between the boy and his father figure, and there was a power disparity leaving the child vulnerable.
Justice Geason upheld the appeal, saying Pettit's prior convictions - two for stalking, two for intimidation intending to cause fear or physical harm, and two for assault occasioning actual bodily harm - had been "overlooked".
Quashing the previous sentence, he said insufficient weight had been given to the need to deter others from punishing children in a similar way.
"Young children are defenceless to the influences and excesses of those entrusted to care for them. This child was powerless to defend himself," he said.
"Protection of the vulnerable requires the imposition of a penalty which serves to discourage those minded to inflict such force, by making it very clear that their conduct will be met with a stern response from the courts."
Noting Pettit's "limited" financial resources, Geason refined Pettit $850 and ordered he attend anger management courses under a 12-month community correction order.
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.
Originally published as Fine for stepdad who belted 'naughty' kid with belt