Offender 'as much a victim as those he assaulted'

Last updated 17:30 02/10/2009

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A young man who was part of a group that drove around Wellington streets looking for drunk students to beat and rob was today jailed for six years.

Reihana Leef, 20, appeared for sentence in Wellington District Court after  breaking conditions of electronically monitored bail by fleeing his home and going into hiding for three weeks.

He eventually turned himself in to police, on the advice of family members.

He had pleaded guilty in April to 10 charges including aggravated robbery, kidnapping, demanding to steal and assault with intent to rob arising from last July's crime wave.

The court was told that Leef and his co-accused went around looking for students to rob after finding out that Wednesday was a popular night for them to go  drinking in Wellington.

Starting with two young men at an inner city skate park, the men confronted and threatened 13 people on the streets during the two-day spree.

Six of those were attacked and beaten, with the others either escaping or handing over their wallets without further incident.

The men were stopped when a 19-year-old man escaped to his accommodation and the  building's security guard took down the robbers' car's licence plate number.

Police caught them two hours later, sitting inside their car on Mt Victoria.

Leef's lawyer, Michael Bott, asked for a sentence with a strong rehabilitation element, citing Chief Justice Sian Elias' July speech, in which she called the prison system a ''monster factory'', with negative effects compounded by double bunking.

''A long period of imprisonment may ... result in a greater risk to society in the future,'' Mr Bott said.

''He is as much a victim as those he assaulted.''

But Judge Denys Barry told Leef that the only sentence that ''protects the community from this sort of pack predation is imprisonment''.

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- NZPA

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