Home detention for bashing thief

ROB KIDD
Last updated 15:56 14/05/2014

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After finding the man who stole his partner's wallet, an Auckland physical trainer punched the thief repeatedly before leaving him unconscious in a pool of his own blood.

At Auckland District Court this afternoon, Mt Albert resident Matthew Sene Tia was sentenced to 10 months home detention for injuring with intent to injure but it was "a very very close call" according to Judge Stan Thorburn.

"It would not be difficult to equally justifiably be sentencing you to a term of imprisonment," he said.

On November 18, Tia's partner had her wallet stolen at an Auckland burger bar.

The next day he persuaded staff to show him the CCTV footage and after recognising the culprit, managed to coax him into the restaurant's back room.

Tia showed the man the film, expecting him to acknowledge the offending, but when he did not, Tia "king hit" him.

"You just exploded and you beat him up," the judge said.

"It's relevant to mention that across the Tasman there's a huge concern in incidents where the 'king hit' is given because people are dying as a result of this. And you know right now standing there, that could have happened to this man."

Tia punched the victim in the head five or six times, continuing the attack even as the man tried to shield himself from the blows.

Crown prosecutor Sarah Wilson said the violence was "prolonged and gratuitous", causing the victim a broken jaw in two places and a serious concussion.

While the assault took place, Tia also warned the injured man not to grab at him.

"If you rip my shirt, I'll f*** you up real bad," he told him.

Adding to the seriousness of the offending, Wilson said, was Tia's extensive criminal history.

He had been jailed for violent offending in the past and had recently served time on firearms charges.

But Tia's lawyer Mary-Anne Lowe said he was turning his life around after running "boot camps" as a physical trainer, as well as having a "deep involvement" in the church.

Judge Thorburn was confident Tia's efforts to change his behaviour were genuine and while he condemned the offender's violent reaction, he said the theft of the wallet had clearly sparked it.

"It's not provocation in legal terms but in the spreadsheet of life, that sort of thing is understandable," he said.

The victim of the attack was charged by police over the theft of the wallet and subsequently pleaded guilty.

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