Victim left with brain damage

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 06:31 06/12/2012

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An unemployed Palmerston North man has been jailed for his part in an ‘‘angry’’ attack that left the victim with brain damage.

On July 19, Stephen John Cunningham, 26, and two others met Jacob Lee about a cannabis deal.

‘‘Mr Lee, you say, had a dog with him and he had tried to attack one of your fellow people,’’ Judge David Smith said to Cunningham in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday.

Cunningham kicked the dog and he and Mr Lee verbally sparred, with Mr Lee, saying ‘‘come on’’.

‘‘You took up that invitation,’’ the judge said.

At first Mr Lee had the better of the fight but after a while Cunningham overpowered him and punched him to the ground.

Cunningham continued to punch him while on the ground, even after Mr Lee lost consciousness.

There is some dispute about whether the two men with Cunningham were involved in the assault, but Judge Smith decided it didn’t matter for the purposes of Cunningham’s sentencing.

Defence lawyer Fergus Steedman acknowledged the serious neurological damage Mr Lee suffered and that it might take some time before the extent of his recovery would be known.

‘‘Sometimes human beings show a surprising capacity to heal,’’ he said.

‘‘I accept that the quality of life he has now isn’t anything near what it was before the incident.’’

Sometimes people offended for relatively minor reasons and, on the night in question, Cunningham was upset.

‘‘[He] gave in to all the feelings of grief and anger he’d been trying to deal with,’’ Mr Steedman said.

‘‘He just drank and drank. That night he was extraordinarily angry. It didn’t matter on whom his anger was vented.’’

After the attack and when he found out Mr Lee’s condition, Cunningham handed himself in to police.

That showed his remorse more than a letter he had since written from jail, Mr Steedman said.

Judge Smith agreed.

For wounding with intent and offering to sell cannabis, Cunningham was sentenced to three years, eight months and one week’s jail.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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