Lewis Stanton sentenced to imprisonment for punching protest leader
Nelson protester Lewis Stanton has been given a three month prison sentence for punching a man in the face during a protest of his central city sit-in.
Stanton was sentenced in the Nelson District Court on Thursday for assaulting Nelson man Ru Dawson last year. Stanton was found guilty at a judge alone trial last month.
The assault occurred during a public protest of Stanton's occupation of Trafalgar St on November 20 last year.
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The protest started at the top of Trafalgar St but the group later walked towards Stanton's camp outside Farmers.
It quickly became heated when the protesters were blasted with water bombs by people standing on a roof.
Judge Ian Mill said "chaotic scenes then erupted" with Dawson and others coming face-to-face with Stanton.
During the confrontation, Stanton threw a "forceful punch" that connected with Dawson's face.
Judge Mill said there was no doubt Stanton had assaulted Dawson as the punch was captured on video. The issue was whether he had acted in self-defence.
He found that Stanton was not acting in self defence and could have "defused the situation" in other ways.
Judge Mill said Stanton refused to comply with community-based sentences, could not pay a fine, and electronically-monitored bail was not suitable.
"Essentially your protest is against the system and you will not co-operate with the system."
He said a short prison sentence was the only option.
Defence lawyer Abigail Goodison said Stanton had already spent 11 days in custody as a result of the charge and asked that credit be given for time served.
She said the protest was "an ongoing provocative situation". People were trampling on Stanton's belongings and Dawson was seen kicking one of his boxes, she said.
Stanton had been attacked in public previously and has a "heightened sensitivity when people converge on him."
Judge Mill said Stanton was a "mystery" and determined to continue his protest, which had caused division in the community.
"Where this will lead to in the end, I have no idea."
He said that Stanton landed "a really good punch" on Dawson's face.
"There was a degree of provocative behaviour involved at the time. It's fair enough for you to have believed that your property may have been at risk."
Stanton had two recent assault convictions in 2011 and 2012. He was sentenced to two months' imprisonment in both cases.
The fact that Dawson had since apologised to Stanton for another protester's actions was "a good step".
Judge Mill remitted about $4000 of Stanton's fines as a result of the prison sentence.
Stanton had cleared his Trafalgar St camp before attending court.