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Angry scenes at court sentencing for stabbing

Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014

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The sentencing of a teenager who paralysed his victim by stabbing him in the neck almost erupted into a courtroom brawl in the Manukau District Court on Monday.

Xodus Reece Akapere Taviliniu-Vemoa, 18, was jailed for five years and one month after pleading guilty to wounding Hayden Barton-Cootes, 19.

He stabbed the victim three times in the head and neck, leaving him a tetraplegic after the blade caused extensive nerve damage.

Despite heavy police and court security presence, the emotion spilled over as Taviliniu-Vemoa was led away.

Vitriolic comments flew across the court and some family members climbed on seats to try to get at those on the other side of the room.

However, not all were aggressive. Taviliniu-Vemoa's father, in particular, apologised to Hayden-Cootes' family as they left.

Eventually the groups were split and the victim's supporters were led away. The offender's family stayed behind, many sobbing loudly.

The two teens had been at Christmas in the Park on the night of December 15 before returning to Manurewa on the train with their respective groups of friends.

Judge Jonathan Moses said the groups traded "banter", which turned into a more heated verbal confrontation as they walked down Alfriston Rd.

Taviliniu-Vemoa pulled a knife from his pocket and stabbed Barton-Cootes in the neck.

The impact of the blade partially severed the victim's spinal cord and two major veins and left him on the ground bleeding heavily.

While lying there, the attack continued.

"You crouched over him then caused two further knife wounds - one to the back of the head and one to the base of the neck," the judge said.

The stabbing stopped only when one of the offender's friends pulled him away.

Judge Moses called it "random, extreme violence" and his sentencing comments were accompanied by crying from both sides of the packed public gallery.

"Both young men come from outstanding families. It's a complete tragedy," he said.

The teens had each been active in their respective churches and the victim had been given a sports scholarship at Manukau Institute of Technology.

Taviliniu-Vemoa's family offered to pay Barton-Cootes $10,000, which Judge Moses granted as a reparation order.

He stressed it was only "a token gesture" but accepted the sincerity of their attempts to make amends. - Fairfax NZ News

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- Manukau Courier

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