Student unable to explain violent behaviour

Last updated 07:30 17/07/2013

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An "exemplary" University of Otago student who attacked police and woke up naked in a cell was sentenced to community detention yesterday.

James Stephen Smith, 22, of Dunedin, appeared for sentence before Judge Michael Turner in the Queenstown District Court for two charges of threatening to kill, resisting police, and assault with intent to injure on March 31.

The finance, accounting and economics student was described as warm, engaging and mature by referees but was at a loss to explain his behaviour on the evening in question, when he appeared to be in the grip of psychosis or under the influence of drugs.

Smith, while intoxicated, first went to the Clyde Wine and Food Festival, where he drank rum, then went to Wanaka, where he was abusive to staff and customers at the New World supermarket. He refused to leave the store, leaving a manager shaken and upset after he put his face close to hers and said that, if she tried to do anything, he would kill her.

Police were called but, during his arrest, he tried to push officers away and escape. In a cell, he was disorderly and covered the door with a mattress.

When police entered, he raised his fists in a boxing stance and shouted "come on", punched an officer in the face and dug his nails into another officer's flesh.

He also threatened to kill a jailer, telling him he was going to cut off his head and cut his throat.

Lawyer Nic Soper said there was no logical explanation for his client's bizarre behaviour, Smith was genuinely remorseful, references were excellent and his family was supportive.

After an initial drug test he was given a full toxicology screening but this was negative, except for a trace of cannabis.

"He found himself naked, confused and genuinely disoriented. He recalls being visited by mental health then being told of the circumstances.

"He can offer no logical explanation. He could not be more apologetic."

When asked to address the court, Mr Smith's father said his son had let himself down and had learnt a valuable lesson.

The court was told the seemingly psychotic behaviour was consistent with users of K2 but Smith said he had tried it once months ago and hated the synthetic drug.

He was sentenced to two months' community detention, with a weekday curfew of 9.30pm to 7.30am and a weekend curfew of 6pm to 7am, 120 hours' community work, and ordered to pay $500 emotional harm reparation.

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- The Southland Times

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