Charge after 'scuffle' dismissed

19:35, Jan 23 2013

A charge of male assaults female resulting from a hotel room scuffle between a Hamilton couple on holiday in Queenstown was dismissed last week.

Judge Kevin Phillips said there was no evidence that James Ngarahu Phillips, 26, had assaulted Maria Morehu Paul on June 12 after an argument escalated into a scuffle, or that he had acted in self-defence, when both suffered cuts and bruises.

Cellphone video evidence presented by Phillips' lawyer showed blood streaming from his nose and cheek, wounds he said were inflicted during the scuffle.

However, Judge Phillips said the video was "self-serving" because there was no clear timeline and the footage did not show Phillips being hit with a pair of binoculars, as he had claimed.

Phillips said any bruises inflicted on his partner were a result of him acting in self-defence during the scuffle.

The judge said the now-separated couple both had to claim responsibility for the situation, which had begun with Ms Paul becoming angry that the snacks in the room's mini-bar were insufficient to feed her when she became hungry.


Yelling developed into Phillips standing over Ms Paul and asking "why she always did this," and her responding in kind, the judge said.

Pushing developed into the couple grappling on the bed, with Phillips' arm across Ms Paul's chest, as she tried to snatch the cellphone off him, and Ms Paul's hair extension ponytail being pulled out.

Phillips had then gone for the room's phone to call for help but Ms Paul decided to do the same, resulting in a struggle over the landline.

"This indicated the argument had got completely out of control," the judge said.

After the scuffle, Ms Paul left the room with rental car keys and Phillips called 111.

She parked in Gorge Rd and flagged down a passing police patrol car.

Constable Donald Hillis, who was called to the room, described finding Phillips alone with a flipped table, phone on the floor and a hair extension ponytail next to it.

Phillips was concerned that Ms Paul was "not in a fit mental state to drive", Mr Hillis said.

When dismissing the charge, the judge said Ms Paul had been an "honest and frank" witness and Phillips "should be thoroughly ashamed" of himself.

The Southland Times