NZ 'punching above its weight' in child abuse, says policeman after 'barbaric' case

A particularly brutal case of child abuse has left a senior police officer lamenting New Zealand's failure to protect its children from the hands of adults.

Detective Inspector Colin Higson, of Counties Manukau Police, has told Newshub he's concerned there's a "constant hand wringing whenever there is a serious case, or a child homicide... and in between there is no significant difference."

His comments come in response to the sentencing of Auckland man Avi Prasad, who was jailed today for five years and eight months for the abuse of a young boy which the sentencing judge labelled "barbaric".

On one occasion, he burned the boy's skin with boiling water in a shower; on another he made him bend over and pressed a scalding hot knife to his buttocks.

It was all done in the name of 'discipline', and took place over a period of four months.

Detective Inspector Higson said his actions were sadistic and calculated.

"The fear that boy must have experienced, knowing the amount of pain he was going to receive; I don't know how anyone in their right mind can think that is acceptable," he said.

The eight-year-old was taken to Auckland's Middlemore Hospital just over a year ago with serious burns over his chest, abdomen, right upper abdomen, the top of his thighs and his genitals.

Doctors say the wounds covered 20 percent of his body and he had to go through nine rounds of surgery.

Crown Prosecutor Evan McCaughan told the Manukau District Court the boy still has to wear compression clothing, which he "absolutely hates".

"The grafted skin is still pink and raw and he cannot run around in the sunlight," he said.

Prasad initially spun a story about the injuries to police, but eventually confessed the partial truth.

He told officers he put the boy in the shower and turned the water on as hot as it would go. He said he held the boy under the water until his skin was blistering and burning.

Prasad tried to cover his tracks, but his texts tripped him up.

"I burnt his stomach in hot water," he messaged someone.

That was followed by another message saying "skin peeled off" and a third, saying "I went overboard this time".

But that wasn't the extent of his cruelty.

When the boy had arrived at hospital, staff noticed older unexplained injuries on his body too.

There were historic burn marks on his backside and swelling to his right hand. The burn marks came from a butter knife Prasad had heated on an oven element and then pressed against the boy's bare buttocks.

He also confessed to bending back three of the boy's fingers as far as they would bend and repeatedly hitting the boy with the heel of his hand, causing bruises to his arms.

Det Insp Higson said it's disappointing that we keep having such horrific cases of child abuse.

"New Zealand punches above its weight in a lot things: in sport, in politics - we were the first country in the world to give women the vote," he said.

"[There are] a lot of things New Zealand is outstanding at. We are also outstanding at hurting our children."