Peace breaks out in Spreydon

03:18, Nov 20 2013

A Samoan man had to kneel for some time during a reconciliation meeting between families following a bloody street brawl in Spreydon.

The man's Christchurch District Court sentencing today signalled peace after the dangerous fight that led to hospital treatment for four people and left one with a possible permanent disability.

But it was smiles, hugs and thanks all round at court as Judge Raoul Neave imposed a 12-month home detention sentence on 35-year-old Soli Soli, in what he described as a highly unusual case.

A woman patted defence counsel Alister James on the shoulder and told him: "God bless you."

The courtroom was packed with the Pacific Island families involved.

After the dispute arose, Soli was seen to have stirred up feelings further by exchanging threatening text messages, and he had taken a knife when a rival mob arrived armed outside his house in Simeon St in July last year.

Using the knife was regarded as an overreaction that went beyond self-defence.

He went on trial on two serious charges but after four days of hearing he pleaded guilty to one charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, and the Crown agreed to withdraw the second charge.

Judge Neave said at the time that he hoped a reconciliation process could be put in place for the two Pacific Island families.

The dispute arose from explicit text messages sent from a member of Soli's family to a 16-year-old girl in the other family.

Brothers arrived at Soli's house while he was out and administered a beating to the young man involved.

Threats followed, and then four rivals arrived in the street armed with a metal object and a wooden club. Bricks were used in the bloody brawl that followed.

Soli stabbed one of the brothers in the shoulder, arm, and mouth. The wounds required 100 stitches and the arm may be permanently disabled because of nerve and tendon damage.

Soli himself was injured and required hospital treatment.

The reconciliation meeting arranged by the elders was held before today's sentencing.

James said it was a complex and lengthy process, and included Soli being required to kneel for some time to express his sorrow.

Apologies were accepted.

Judge Neave noted that Soli had undergone "full abasement and acceptance of responsibility" during the reconciliation process.

He was seen as a having a good character, with no previous convictions, and making contributions to the community.

He was a church man and supported his own family and his parents in Samoa while working long hours for low wages. He was assessed as suitable for home detention.

The judge said there were significant mitigating circumstances. He noted that many of the aggravating features about the confrontation applied to the victims rather than to Soli.

Reducing the sentence for those factors - and for the reconciliation, the personal factors, and the guilty plea - he was able to impose a 12-month home detention sentence, with a further six months of post release conditions.

He had spoken of Soli's need for counselling for problem solving skills and anger management.


The Press