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Guilty plea, remorse factor in home detention sentence

A man who showed great remorse in Masterton District Court yesterday received a heavily discounted sentence for assaulting his partner while she held their child.

Cullam Brooks appeared in Masterton District Court yesterday, having pleaded guilty to assaulting with intent to injure, impeding breathing, two counts of assault with intent to injure, and two counts of contravening a protection order.

A protection order had been issued in September last year to protect the victim – Brooks’ previous partner, with whom he shares a young son – from Brooks.

Earlier this year, he breached this order and got into an argument with the victim during which he followed her around, pushed her to the ground, and threatened to kill her.

At a later time, and breaching another protection order, Judge Barbara Morris said the children had been put to bed when the victim considered calling the police for violent behaviour.

“You grabbed her, flipped her on her back, straddled her, and started to strangle her.”

Morris said there is research showing that those who are prepared to strangle are those who appear prominently in cases where people die.

On another occasion referenced by Morris, after finding out the victim had dialled the police for help, Brooks assaulted her while she was holding their child.

“You punched her in the face while she was holding your child. She had bruising on her throat and neck.

“You assaulted her a number of times, pushed into a couch where she cut her leg.

“Indicating what you were capable of, you grabbed her throat for a second before punching her twice while she was holding the young child.”

Brooks’ parents sat in the gallery as support for their son while he stood in the dock.

Defence counsel Mike Kilbride said that while the victim did not deserve what happened to her, the relationship between her and the defendant was “fraught and damaged”.

In making a case for a home detention sentence, Kilbride said Brooks felt huge remorse for his actions and wanted to put his hand up for change.

“He does feel shame for his various part in it, and he knows it was wrong and inexcusable,” Kilbride said.

“He knows he can’t have his son seeing that kind of behaviour, it’s not the kind of parent he wants to be.

“He never wants to put his partner or a future partner through this, and for that he needs help.”

Initially, Morris was unconvinced that Brooks’ actions warranted a significant sentence reduction, as the starting point for his convictions was a nearly three-year jail sentence.

“In dealing with someone who chooses to strangle, that hails so much significance,” Morris said.

“It’s curious that you’re in the position you are, as you don’t have a history of drug, alcohol, or damage, which means you don’t have an excuse.”

Brooks had spent the past 201 days in custody at Remutaka Prison, something Kilbride described as terrifying.

“He’s not going to be afforded an opportunity to improve in a custodial setting,” Kilbride said.

Morris heard from Brooks’ family, who described his situation as shocking.

“I know there’s no excuse for what he’s done, but for the last six months he’s changed for the better, and he regrets what’s happened,” a family member said.

A tearful Brooks also spoke and said he agreed with his lawyer.

“Prison is horrible,” Brooks said.

“I’m very remorseful for what’s happened, it’s not a good place, and I don’t want to go back there.”

After this, Morris referred to the victim impact statement.

“You were manipulative, controlling and violent. Prior to this, she didn’t have depression and anxiety but now she does,” Morris said.

“But you’re fortunate that she wishes you to be able to carry on and be a good father. She says you are a good father to your son.”

Morris also referred to Brooks’ time spent in custody at Remutaka Prison, describing the jail experience as inhumane.

“It’s an awful time, particularly in Remutaka,” Morris said.

“They have inadequate staffing and what many would describe as inhumane 20, 30-hour lockdowns; inhumane for you and for the police officers who are trying to run the prison.”

Taking the above into account, along with Brooks’ remorse, guilty plea, and willingness to take part in restorative justice and counselling, Morris sentenced Brooks to home detention for eight months, subject to detention conditions.

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