Teen jailed for bashing old, homeless woman

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 14:36 18/12/2013

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The violent robbery of an old, defenceless and homeless woman was a despicable act, a Taranaki judge has told her 17-year-old youth attacker.

James Atkinson was jailed for 15 months when sentenced in the New Plymouth District Court today.

In the company of two young teenagers he attacked the homeless woman when she was sleeping in the Fitzroy Beach toilets.

The court heard how Atkinson first talked to the woman.

Then when she feared for herself and went to leave, Atkinson punched the woman in the face, felling her.

They took her only belongings and ran off.

His lawyer Eleanor Connole acknowledged the offending was serious.

When he pleaded guilty to injuring the woman with intent to injure her, he had been remanded in custody in Hawke's Bay away from his family where communication was difficult.

The offending was due to Atkinson's addiction to artificial cannabis, including Not Pot.

He had been kicked out of home and was looking for money to sustain his addiction, she said.

In jail he had been in an alcohol and drug programme and was motivated to stop using it and had started training.

He had written letters of apology to his victims.

Prosecuting Senior Sergeant Malcolm Grieg said police were unable to track down the homeless woman to put her victim impact statement before the court.

Judge Allan Roberts said Atkinson admitted the assault, unlawfully taking a motor vehicle and attempting to take another, intentional damage of motor vehicles and theft, all in September.

On September 18 he stole a $1000 mountain bike out of the Bell block school's locked shed but police saw him and arrested him getting the bike back to its owner unharmed.

The next day he and the two youths aged 13 and 14 decided to steal a car to drive to Opunake to see a girlfriend.

They took gloves and bandannas, a screwdriver and a clamp.

They walked down the coastal walkway and tried to get into a green Mazda Capella.

When they couldn't, they slashed the front and rear right tyres.

They then went into the toilet block at Fitzroy Beach and Atkinson went into the women's toilets finding the homeless female asleep, the police summary says.

The three spoke to her and when she tried to leave, Atkinson punched her in the face several times with a closed fist and she fell to the ground.

They picked up her bag, containing an old towel and duvet cover, worth $20, and ran off.

They found another car on Waiwaka Tce, hot-wired it and drove to Opunake.

When they couldn't find the girlfriend they slashed the car's tyres, smashed the headlights, ripped out the stereo and slashed the roof lining.

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Judge Allan Roberts said Atkinson failed to take his chance when given supervision for earlier less serious offending.

There was a suggestion he got some kick out of leading other people into offending, the judge said.

He had been pushing the boundaries of his long-suffering parents and had problems with drinking and drug-taking.

The vulnerable woman had done him no harm ''and your offending was nothing short of despicable'', Judge Roberts said.

''To cap it off you stole from her, taking from her all she owned.''

Judge Roberts sentenced Atkinson to 15 months jail saying the community deserved a break from his predatory behaviour.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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