Man jailed for throat slashing

SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 09:14 28/05/2014

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A man who slashed a crew member's neck on board a fishing boat berthed at Port Nelson has been sentenced to 6 years and 9 months prison.

Joseph Koro Tapahe Lewis, 30, a deckhand, was sentenced in the Nelson District Court yesterday for the February attack which severely injured an Indonesian crew member.

Lewis pled guilty in March to a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, along with other charges relating to assaulting a female and failing to comply with court orders.

Yesterday Judge Tony Zohrab said Lewis entered the boat's wheelhouse at 3am on February 7, where the victim, an Indonesian man, was sitting in the captain's chair and talking with his wife in Indonesia on his cellphone.

Lewis struck up a conversation with the victim about a car, and showed him a picture of it on his cellphone.

When the victim turned around to continue talking with his wife, Lewis suddenly placed his hand across the man's face, covering his mouth and nose, and used his other hand to slash the victim's neck with a 15cm long fishing knife.

The victim put a hand on his wounds to stop the extensive bleeding and turned to look at Lewis, who stabbed him twice in the chest and stomach, causing a lung to collapse.

Lewis jumped off the vessel and hid on the rock seawall under the wharf before police arrived.

The victim remained in Nelson Hospital for eight days and required a further two months recuperation.

The victim was not angry with Lewis but more surprised as he thought Lewis was a nice guy, Judge Zohrab said.

The male assaults female charge related to an incident prior to February 7, where Lewis had an argument with his partner over money and food. He headbutted the woman twice.

When Lewis' partner ran out of the house to ask for help, without warning, Lewis smashed a lot of the house's contents, including furniture, crockery and technology.

Defence lawyer Mark Dollimore said Lewis had acknowledged he could have faced murder charges as a result of the life threatening injuries he inflicted on the Indonesian national.

Lewis could not give any excuse for his behaviour and was perplexed that he acted in such a way.

Lewis often rang Dollimore asking whether the victim was alright, showing genuine remorse.

He wrote a letter of apology to the victim.

At the time of the incident he was in a bad place, suffering emotional and physical distress due to his ending relationship.

Consumption of synthetic cannabis and alcohol, combined with a history of mental illness were serious factors that led to the offending, Dollimore said.

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Lewis was now heavily involved in bible study and wanted to one day pursue a career in building or electricals.

He had two children and did not want to follow in his father's footsteps and have any gang affiliations.

Crown prosecutor Mark O'Donoghue said the stabbing occurred while Lewis was on bail for the violent offence charge of male assaults female.

Mental health was said to be a factor in one medical report, but it was later found not to be.

Judge Zohrab said the Indonesian victim was particularly vulnerable because he had his back turned and he was unarmed.

The throat slashing was unprovoked and unexpected, he said.

Lewis was sentenced to a minimum non parole period of three years and two months.

He was also issued with a strike warning for his serious violence offences..

- Nelson

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