A man who burgled a house armed with a meat cleaver and threatened to chop off his victim's legs has had five months cut from his jail term.
On 18 April 2010, James McNeice went to the victim's house armed with a cleaver to settle a dispute over the ownership of his girlfriend's motorbike.
He also went to dispute rent arrears the victim believed were owed to him by McNeice's girlfriend and to collect some possessions she had left at the property, a Court of Appeal decision released yesterday said.
The cleaver was "really some form of display item rather than a meat cleaver that one might use in the kitchen'', but NcNeice used it to threaten the victim.
"He grabbed the victim by the throat and pushed him against the wall of the house. He threatened the victim saying he would chop off his legs."
McNeice took the TV from the house and a laptop computer which his girlfriend helped place in their car, before they drove off.
McNeice and his partner were both charged with aggravated burglary, but his girlfriend's charge was later downgraded to burglary. In an appeal heard last month counsel for McNeice challenged both his sentence and conviction arguing the Crown had changed their position partway through his trial "in a manner which was unfair" to him.
Had the Crown's case from the outset been that McNeice's intended crime was assault, not theft, he might have pleaded guilty, the lawyer argued. McNeice was sentenced to two years and eight months jail, something his counsel said was excessive.
The appeals court found McNeice had not been disadvantaged at his trial but conceded the sentencing judge had calculated his punishment from a starting point that was too high.
The Court of Appeal said an appropriate starting point was two years and six months - not three years. McNeice's sentence was reduced 10 per cent - three months - further to reflect his remorse.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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