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Covid stress accepted in sentencing

A man who drunkenly assaulted his pregnant partner and pointed an air rifle at a police officer, before turning it on himself, has avoided jail time.

The man appeared teary-eyed in Masterton District Court on Wednesday, where he was sentenced to five months community detention.

Judge Barbara Morris said in the summary of facts that the man came home drunk at 2am and woke his young child.

His partner – who was one week from giving birth to their third child – confronted him, and he slapped her in the head.

“You pushed her while she was heavily pregnant, and she fell to the ground.”

At some stage during the altercation, the man’s partner phoned the police. Judge Morris said the man went into the garage and grabbed an air rifle.

The police arrived at 2.30am, and when the constable – whose wife was also due to give birth to their first child the next week – opened the garage, the man was pointing the air rifle at him.

“What he [the officer] found must have been extremely traumatic. A man aiming a gun at him.” Judge Morris noted that the air rifle – while designed for birds, not people – could have done severe damage and looked just like a normal hunting rifle.

The man continued to point the rifle at the constable with his finger on the trigger for five seconds before turning it on himself and putting it under his chin.

Concerned for the man’s welfare, the constable negotiated with him to lower the rifle, which he did and was then arrested.

The constable said in his victim impact statement that the incident was not only traumatic for him but also for his pregnant wife and the incident had made him more cautious and less trusting.

Despite this, the constable said he did not want the man to go to jail and instead wanted him to get the help he needed.

The man’s partner said in her victim impact statement that the man was ordinarily an excellent father and provider but had turned to alcohol to deal with stress.

“She believes this was all a cry for help, you were at breaking point,” Judge Morris said in summary.

Defence lawyer James Elliott said the man had historical trauma and alcohol addiction, with alcohol abuse reinforced at a young age.

Elliott said the man returned to alcohol during the pandemic when he feared for his business.

“He went to the crutch of alcohol when the world was bearing down against him,” Elliott said.

Judge Morris said the starting sentence was two years imprisonment, considering that he targeted his pregnant partner’s head and traumatised the police officer.

But mitigating circumstances such as his early guilty plea, diligence in attending counselling, and his willingness to undertake restorative justice, reduced the sentence to 11 months.

“This was out of character for you, and there was a reason for it. Enormous stress, as many experienced throughout covid lockdowns, and your business was significantly affected.

“You became extremely distressed and worried, evidenced by how you turned the gun on yourself.”

Judge Morris said that prison could and should be avoided.

“I do not think the public has anything to fear from your future offending,” she said.

“You would lose your business, and your children would lose their father.”

Judge Morris sentenced the man to five months community detention with a nightly curfew and nine months supervision.

He was also ordered to pay $500 emotional harm reparation to the constable and to continue attending counselling and addiction services.

The Times-Age has not identified the offender in order to protect the victim.

Where to get help: https://changewairarapa.org.nz/ Counselling Services
06 377 5716
Family Violence Services
06 377 0933

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