First second-strike warning looms

A police officer grabs Michael Hutchinson after he jumped on top of co-offender Shannon Glen in the New Plymouth District Court in August.
A police officer grabs Michael Hutchinson after he jumped on top of co-offender Shannon Glen in the New Plymouth District Court in August.

A convicted robber is poised to be the first in Taranaki to record a second-strike offence - and probably the fastest in the country to ever do so.

Michael Hutchinson, 37, gained nationwide notoriety when he attacked his co-offender on August 24.

The assault was in full view of everyone in New Plymouth District Court after a judge jailed Hutchinson for nine years for a violent robbery at the Waiwhakaiho groyne.

The sentencing judge had just given Hutchinson his first strike warning before the prisoner launched a barrage of punches on the man standing beside him in the dock, Shannon Glen, 20.

Police allege that Hutchinson then bit Glen on his shoulder while police and prison guards and security officers tried to get him under control.

By the end of the week police had charged Hutchinson with injuring Glen with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm. The charge qualifies him for his second strike warning. If convicted, it will be Taranaki's first second-strike warning and the fastest in the history of strike offences.

Hutchinson's lawyer, Kylie Pascoe, told the court last month her client, whom she said did not deny the very public attack, would be challenging the serious nature of the charge. The case was deferred for a committal date on October 23.

The three strikes act was championed by former Act MP David Garrett, a former New Plymouth-based lawyer.

He had argued it would make criminals think twice before reoffending.

Central police region prosecution manager Senior Sergeant Malcolm Greig said it had certainly not worked in Hutchinson's case.

"I'd be surprised if he even turned his mind to it," Mr Greig said yesterday.

In response to an Official Information Act request from the Taranaki Daily News, Justice Ministry district courts general manager Tony Fisher said that as the legislation had been in place only since June 1, 2010, there was insufficient data to assess the effectiveness of the warnings as a deterrent.

In total there are 40 strike offences involving all major violent and sexual offences with a maximum penalty of seven years jail or more.

They include murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, sexual violation, abduction, kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

The legislation creates a three-stage regime increasing consequences for repeat serious violent offenders.

In Taranaki, strike warnings have been handed down for abduction and kidnapping, aggravated burglary, manslaughter, acts intended to cause injury, robbery, serious assaults and sexual assaults.

STRIKE WARNINGS (In Taranaki from June 1, 2010 to August 30, 2012)

Stage 1 warnings: 67 given (11 female, 56 male) Average age: 32 years (females 34, males 32)

Most serious: manslaughter (Cindi Fairburn)

No stage 2 offence warnings as yet 1892 have received stage 1 warnings in NZ (156 female 1736 male).

Taranaki Daily News