Teen spared prison over firework prank

Last updated 12:49 04/07/2014

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A young man "so smashed" he did not know that it was stupid to place a lit firework down the shirt of another, has escaped a prison sentence but now has three months' community detention ahead.

Vincent Lindwood, 19, earlier admitted charges of injuring with reckless disregard, assault, wilful damage, cultivating cannabis and possession of utensils for smoking cannabis, following the incident in which a man was badly injured in Murchison last November.

During sentencing in the Nelson District Court yesterday, Judge Phil Gittos said punishment for the lead charge carried a prison term, which is what the Crown sought but he did not consider it appropriate in this case.

"It wasn't an act of aggression, but an act of gross stupidity," the judge said.

He said the "particularly feckless night" led to a police investigation and the discovery Lindwood had been "growing himself a bit of cannabis".

The court heard that on the night of the fireworks incident Lindwood and friends had been drinking to "gross excess" and had equipped themselves with a considerable quantity of fireworks. He and his co-offenders "amused themselves" by throwing the devices they had lit at one of the young men who arrived without any, making him jump around as they "pelted him with the things".

The judge said Lindwood then took it a stage further by coming up behind the victim and poking a lit firework down the back of his shirt, which took some time for the victim to dislodge.

It caused serious and painful burns to the victim's back which resulted in an open wound, but it seemed that the victim was so drunk he did not realise he had been injured so seriously, Gittos said.

"He took himself off to bed but you then went up to where he was asleep and threw another firework on the bed, which set fire to the bedding."

Gittos said that despite Lindwood's intoxicated state it was lucky he had the nous to realise the danger, and put out the fire.

Defence counsel Michael Vesty said it was a "poor combination of alcohol, fireworks and a houseful of boys under 20", that became unsafe because of their stupidity. He said Lindwood acknowledged the harm he had done, but had not intended it to happen. He put the firework down the victim's shirt thinking it would fall out.

Lindwood had taken part in the restorative justice process, had met the victim and apologised to him and his family who had been involved in the process. He had also paid the victim $500 in reparation.

Vesty said it was an "isolated event" and that Lindwood had since moved away from Murchison to Reefton and had made a fresh start. He had also made solid plans to move to Australia.

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The judge said Lindwood had done about as much as anyone could expect, but he needed to get a handle on alcohol and its effects on him. The probation officer's report suggested he was remorseful but unable to grasp the seriousness of what he had done. "People who get charged with this sort of thing generally end up in jail," Gittos said.

He said Lindwood had been "playing with fire" in the true sense of the meaning and it was lucky he had not caused the victim worse harm, or burned down the house they were in.

On the lead charge, Lindwood was sentenced to three months' community detention, nine months' supervision and 100 hours of community work. On the other charges he was sentenced to nine months' supervision and 100 hours' community work to be served concurrently.

- Nelson

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