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Man avoids jail sentence after assaulting ex-partner

A young man has avoided jail time after admitting to trespassing into his ex-partner’s house on her birthday, putting a shopping bag over her head, assaulting her, and telling her he didn’t care if she died.

Cullen Amituanai, 26, was sentenced to 12 months supervision in Masterton District Court on Wednesday [July 5].

After midnight on October 12, 2021, Amituanai, who was then 24, arrived at the Masterton house of the victim, who had been his partner for two and a half years.

She asked him to leave and called the police.

He left before the police arrived but later returned; the victim again asked him to leave.

Instead, he held her head down and, when she cried for help, he covered her nose and mouth, impeding her breathing, and said he didn’t care if she died.

The victim ran into another room and screamed for help but he pulled her back by the hair with both hands and covered her head with a shopping bag.

She tried to break free but then apologised for screaming and said she did not want to die on her birthday.

Amituanai assaulted her by throwing a petrol can at her back.

He appeared in Masterton District Court on Wednesday, supported by his family.

Defence lawyer Mike Kilbride said his client had made significant changes and had not offended again in the 19 months he had been on electronically monitored bail.

“He’s in full employment, and he’s completed a non-violence programme; he’s taken a hard road through these bail conditions to make some changes in his life,” Kilbride said.

Judge Andrew Nicholls said the offender made a very poor decision about a relationship that was in the dying stages.

Reading from the victim impact statement, Judge Nicholls said the victim subsequently experienced anxiety and discomfort, found it hard to trust the men in her life when their tone changed, and often felt anxious about going outside.

He said strangulation, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment, was the most serious offence.

“It’s an assault that carries a high risk of harm and is intended to terrify the victim.”

Judge Nicholls noted that the offending happened in the victim’s home, where she was particularly vulnerable, and that Amituanai repeatedly attempted to assault and intimidate her.

He also noted that Amituanai terrified the victim, as evidenced when she said she did not want to die on her birthday.

He said the starting point for the offending was 28 months [two years and four months] imprisonment.

However, after applying discounts for a guilty plea, remorse, his young age, one month served in custody, and 19 months on electronically monitored bail, the sentence was reduced to 12 months supervision.

“At 26, you’re at the top end of what we would define as young,” Judge Nicholls said.

“While this was serious offending, I do acknowledge that we all make mistakes while young, and you have used the time since the offending constructively.”


  1. Wow. What a manifestly inadequate sentence for an horrific crime which will traumatise the victim for the rest of her life. The public, and especially the victims of this sort of savagery, deserve better than this. Shame on you, Judge Nicholls.

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