Violent partner jailed

Last updated 13:20 28/01/2013

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A woman  nearly strangled to death by her violent partner came close to being jailed herself after she changed her story.

Steven Joseph Johnson, 34, who says he has now severed his links with Black Power, was found guilty at trial and was sentenced in the New Plymouth District Court on Friday to 27 months jail for injuring Davina Newman with intent, threatening to kill her and attempting to defeat the course of justice.

The story of his conviction and the aftermath was revealed during sentencing when Judge Allan Roberts said Johnson's dominance of his victim was made evident during the trial.

The jury heard Johnson's recorded calls to her from the prison telling her to withdraw her complaint.

Ms Newman had been under Johnson's control, had "parroted lies to the jury and that deceit was maintained right to the end", Judge Roberts said.

Without the "dogged focus" of family violence co-ordinator Detective Sergeant Dave  Beattie, the police officer in charge, Johnson could have walked free and Ms Newman could have been jailed for making a false statment to police, the judge said.

The charge was withdrawn when police went ahead with the case.

Yesterday Mr Beattie said when he picked up the case he was concerned the wrong person - the victim - could have been convicted and possibly jailed.

Ms Newman came close to death as a result of Johnson strangling her, he said.

"It's very unjust to see the victim coming to within an inch of her life and he walks free.

"We have to have the right person in the dock."

Mr Beattie said he dealt with 1500 reports of domestic violence in North Taranaki a year.

"It is common for victims to want to wind the clock back and recant," he said.

There were many reasons they did so, including financial, the children, and their love for their partner.

"This case is a good reminder that there is a big difference between regreting what's happened and taking active steps that put yourself, as a victim, at risk [of being convicted and possibly jailed]," Mr Beattie said.

"If you start making statements you know aren't true you put yourself in jeopardy."

The assault was what an offender had chosen to do and they needed to be made responsible for their offending.

It was no different from bringing up children, there needed to be a consequence for bad behaviour. If unchallenged that bad behaviour would just continue.

Victims were encouraged to get expert help from services such as Women's Refuge, Tu Tama Wahine and Relationship Services.

That course of action is more constructive than telling lies to police and then backing those lies up to a jury under oath, Mr Beattie said.

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"All I've done is my job and I make no apology for that."

- Taranaki

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