A trial over a vicious street battle has ended early, with one guilty plea, one charged dropped and hopes for reconciliation between the two warring families.
The trial of Soli Soli, 34, was halted without the Christchurch District Court jury having to decide its verdicts on two charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Soli will be sentenced in November, but in the meantime the two wider families involved will probably meet at a restorative justice conference.
Judge Raoul Neave saw that outcome as a fitting end since reconciliation played an important part in Pacific Island culture.
He thanked the jurors as their task ended on the fourth day of the trial today, telling them that their time had not been wasted because the hearing of evidence had clarified the issues.
The defence called evidence today, and then the judge and lawyers went into discussions without the jury present before the closing addresses. The defence was claiming self-defence.
The addresses were not required.
Judge Neave said it became clear that Soli was "in some considerable difficulty" over the charge of wounding Falaniko Otufangavalu, who he stabbed four times in the confrontation between the family groups in Simeon St, Spreydon, on July 24 last year.
But the Crown was in difficulty over the charge of wounding Sioeli Otufangavalu, Falaniko's younger brother, who was bashing Soli over the head with a bat when Soli stabbed him in the torso.
Soli pleaded guilty to the first charge and the Crown offered a discharge under the Crimes Act - the same as an acquittal - on the second charge, and the trial ended.
Four people ended up at Christchurch Hospital after the battle, including Soli with injuries to his head and hands.
The confrontation escalated from one family's objections to a man from the other family sending explicit text messages to a 16-year-old girl. That led to a visit by the Otufangavalu brothers to that man's house on July 23, and his bashing in front of women and children.
The brothers have pleaded guilty to charges of assault with intent to injure over that incident. They are awaiting sentence, but a hearing will be needed because there is a dispute over whether a bat was used in the assault.
The Crown says there was bad blood between the families - one Samoan, and one part-Tongan and part-Samoan - when the groups shaped up in the street armed with a patu (club), a piece of timber, a knife and bricks.
The Otufangavalus say the meeting began as an attempt to talk, but people were angry and things quickly escalated. Bricks were thrown and the weapons were used.
Soli remains on bail for sentencing on November 20.
Judge Neave called for a report on his suitability for home detention, and he made it a bail condition that Soli will be allowed to contact the other family if the reconciliation meeting can be arranged. Such contact has been banned for the past year.
"It seems to me a pretty fair result," Judge Neave said as the trial ended.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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