Huntly man ducks third strike sentence

A Huntly man on the cusp of being New Zealand's first offender to be sentenced under the third strike legislation received a last-minute reprieve, after the Crown withdrew the charge.

Trevor Smith, had his youthful age of 23 and lack of previous violent offences to thank for a charge of kidnapping being withdrawn after he and two others beat a man before threatening him with a chainsaw in Huntly last year.

Smith was yesterday sentenced by Justice Gilbert to two years and six months in prison on two charges of injuring with intent to injure and assault with a chainsaw after the attack on February 14 last year.

Smith and his co-offenders - Ricky Hona, 24, and Jaskirt Singh-Kang, 18, who have already been sentenced - were driving around Huntly when they spotted the victim on Hakanoa St.

Singh-Kang had been looking for the victim after he sold his car to a wrecking yard without permission.

The victim tried to hide but the trio eventually caught up with him, punching and kicking him before putting him in the car and beating him again.

A second victim was then seen and also put in the car and beaten as they were driven to a picnic area.

Smith then got a chainsaw out of the boot of the car and started it up before handing it to Singh-Kang who then threatened to use it.

The attack lasted about an hour, and left the victim with multiple injuries which needed treatment but not hospitalisation.

When spoken to, Smith admitted driving the car but not having anything to do with the assaults.

Along with the three charges Smith admitted, he also faced a charge of kidnapping - a qualifying violent offence under the three strikes legislation.

But that was withdrawn by Crown prosecutor Ross Douch yesterday.

Had it not been, Smith would have received the maximum sentence available without parole.

Mr Douch said Smith had already quickly built up two strikes under the legislation.

Mr Douch said the way they occurred, along with this attack, showed he had a blatant disregard for the law.

Smith had been convicted of indecent assault and sentenced to community work, before three days later again being charged with indecent assault.

This latest attack occurred three months after he had been released from prison.

However, Mr Douch said Smith was not someone "who fell in the category of which a third strike is designed for".

But Smith's lawyer, Rob Weir, said his client had always maintained having nothing to do with the assault and was simply the driver.

He urged Justice Gilbert to also focus on rehabilitation and reintegration rather than deterrence and punishment, like the Crown had proposed.

Smith had no other violence convictions, he said.

Justice Gilbert told Smith it was clear he had no regard for the three strikes legislation by offending in such a succinct way.

He told Smith the consequences for his actions were far less serious now that the kidnapping charge had been dropped. The judge was hopeful, given Smith's youth, that Smith could still turn his life around.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokeswoman Ruth Money, who was at the sentencing, said the kidnapping charge should not have been withdrawn, but instead left for a jury to decide and if convicted for a judge to decide and use his discretion for length of jail time.

Waikato Times