Woman who murdered granddaughter given harsher sentence on appeal

By RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission

A woman who murdered her teenage granddaughter has been given a harsher prison sentence on appeal.

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Lorraine Smith in the High Court in Wellington. Source: rnz.co.nz

Lorraine Smith, 61, pleaded guilty to strangling 13-year-old Kalis Smith to death in the sleepout at her Whanganui home in 2019.

At her sentencing, in the High Court at Wellington, Justice Cook said Smith was a devoted grandmother, but she was suffering carer-burnout, looking after her three grandchildren and dealing with her own mental health problems.

“I accept that Ms Smith was suffering from severe emotional, physical and mental exhaustion in the months leading up to the offending. Her mental health had continued to deteriorate and she presented with symptoms of a moderately severe recurrent major depressive disorder,” he said.

“She was overcome with remorse in interviews and suffers from profound grief and guilt for the circumstances of her granddaughter’s death.”

Smith avoided a term of life imprisonment and was instead jailed for 12 years, with a minimum non-parole period of six years.

But the Court of Appeal quashed that.

It said when it looked at the circumstances of Kalis’ death, and her vulnerability, a life sentence was not manifestly unjust.

“We do not underestimate the significance of Kalis’s vulnerability, and that Ms Smith deliberately set out to kill her granddaughter in a distressing manner. Ms Smith’s offending involved a gross breach of trust,” the judgment said.

“We believe, however, that Ms Smith’s personal circumstances must be recognised with a compassionate response.”

The Court of Appeal sentenced her to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years – the least restrictive sentence it could impose.

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