Teen rapist sent to psychiatric facility

Last updated 15:09 11/12/2013

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A teenager who raped and beat a woman, leaving her brain-damaged, has failed in a bid to have his jail sentence reduced, but he will be transferred to a secure psychiatric facility.

Ben Tuli was sentenced to nine years' jail in March for the attack two years ago on the woman, who was walking through an Auckland park.

Court records show he knocked her out with one punch and then raped her.

Tuli, who was aged 16 at the time of the attack, had appealed against the length of his sentence and the judge's decision not to order him detained in a secure facility under a special-care order.

In a ruling released today, the Court of Appeal said the consequences for Tuli's victim had been "devastating".

Her jaw was broken and she had been diagnosed with brain damage, requiring her to undergo intensive rehabilitation to relearn many basic functions.

Emotionally, the situation was just as bad, the court said, with the victim having lost confidence and living in fear.

"She no longer feels comfortable in groups or around strangers and feels she has lost her freedom and independence," it said.

"It is to be hoped that some of these effects may ameliorate over time, but there can be no doubt some will be long-lasting and perhaps permanent."

The judgment said Tuli, now 18, suffered from a mild intellectual disability caused in part by a brain-trauma injury suffered in a scooter accident when he was 10.

He was assessed as having an IQ of 67 or 68, with under 70 being the level at which a degree of intellectual disability was recognised.

From a young age Tuli had been regarded as a bully prone to excessive anger who frequently engaged in fights, could be violent and had been often removed temporarily or permanently from schools.

The court said that in jail Tuli had been "acting up, being disruptive and seems to have been drawn into a gang environment".

"The obvious concern is that a prolonged time in such an environment may serve to further diminish his rehabilitative prospects," it said

A report from a mental health expert said Tuli's intellectual disability meant his rehabilitation would require expert help.

Justice Simon France said the court acknowledged nine years was a long sentence for an 18-year-old, but it could not agree with any reduction.

However, he agreed that Tuli should be made a special-care recipient under the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act. This meant Tuli would be placed in a secure facility with a care plan designed for his needs.

He would remain subject to the nine-year sentence, and if his caregivers thought he was ready to leave the facility before the end of the sentence, he would be returned to prison.

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If he was still in care at the end of his sentence, an order could be made extending his care for six months, and that could in turn be renewed.

Justice France said it had been a "finely balanced decision". While it would be in Tuli's interest, he said, "it is the public-safety aspect that has driven the outcome".

- Stuff

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