OPINION: It's the randomness and brutality of the Christmas morning attack on Richmond man Jared Grafton that makes it so unsettling.
The 28-year-old had enjoyed a sociable Christmas Eve and was walking to get a burger just after midnight when he was set on by four men.
The men had driven past and yelled abuse at Grafton and two other men. Whether they took offence at something that was said in reply is immaterial - they were obviously looking for a fight, and ganged up on their victim, using a sickening level of violence.
When the punching and kicking stopped, Grafton was left unconscious, with multiple facial fractures. Witnesses describe the sound of bones crunching in the assault, which police said could easily have been fatal.
That would have been especially tragic, because Grafton should have been sharing Christmas Day at home with his 7-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.
As it was, he spent the day in Nelson and later Hutt hospitals as doctors repaired his shattered face.
He finally had a belated Christmas with his children on Sunday.
There are a number of aggravating features to the attack.
It's hard to figure the mentality of a group who would gang up on another minding his own business and beat him almost to death.
As Jared's father Bill Grafton says, it was a cowardly act that has no place on the largely friendly streets of Richmond and Nelson.
That it happened on Christmas Day - the day of the year where goodwill to all is supposed to prevail - makes it even harder to fathom.
While crime rates have shown positive trends and the intensive police focus on Bridge St has cut disorder, one troubling statistic is the number of alcohol-related cases at Nelson Hospital.
Only this month emergency doctor Mark Reeves cited a growing number of young men who needed specialist treatment for smashed faces as part of the alarming rate of alcohol-related violence. While fights might be less common, the violence used was more extreme, he said, with young men "putting the boot in" once someone was down.
If alcohol played a part in the latest attack it raises more questions about how we should tackle this problem. In the meantime it's hoped the police will find Grafton's attackers.
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