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Man avoids jail after wounding officer with knife

A man who threw a kitchen knife at a police officer, stabbing him through the face, has avoided prison and instead been sentenced to home detention.

Benjamin Richards, 30, appeared in Masterton District Court on Friday for sentencing after admitting to wounding with reckless disregard.

On December 28, 2022, Richards was drinking with a woman at her house.

The woman told him he had drunk too much and that he should go to sleep on the sofa.

Richards punched a hole in her wall and smashed a window; she barricaded herself in her bedroom, and a neighbour called the police.

Two police officers arrived to see Richards holding a large kitchen knife; one officer told him to put it down, but he refused.

Richards lifted the knife behind his shoulder and threw it four metres across the room, piercing the officer through his face and creating a 5cm gash on the inside of his cheek.

Richards was restrained and arrested; the wounded officer was hospitalised and needed plastic surgery.

The police officer requested that his victim impact statement be read aloud in court.

He said he had repeatedly replayed the incident in his mind since it happened.

“If it had been two inches up or down, it could have gone through my eye or neck.”

He said his wife had been suffering from anxiety since the incident and continually checked in on him at work to make sure he was okay.

“How dare he almost take a husband away from his wife, a father from his children,” he said.

“I joined the police to help people; I don’t deserve to have my life treated as expendable.” Richards had been on home detention with a 24/7 curfew – except for going to work – since the offending in December.

Judge Barbara Morris said when duty calls, police officers must respond to perilous situations and try to help.

She noted Richards had no convictions apart from a driving conviction some time ago.

She said he had complex mental health issues and was on significant medication.

“Your parents indicated that this is completely out of character; they believe alcohol and your anxiety medication combined to make you act this way. I don’t have information to say if this is the case, but it would otherwise seem unexplainable,” Judge Morris said.

“There is no question that if you had a history of violence, you would go to prison.”

After applying a discount for a guilty plea and accounting for time served, Judge Morris reduced the sentence to below two years, meaning it could be served with home detention rather than prison.

Richards was sentenced to seven months of home detention and ordered to pay $800 emotional harm reparation.

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