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‘A better path’ keeps him out of jail

FAMILY violence is not OK, a man’s T-shirt proclaimed.

He was standing in the dock of Gisborne District Court for sentence on crimes of that nature but was now a man on a better path, his counsel said.

Cohen Rawiri Irwin, 33, pleaded guilty to two breaches of a protection order, by psychologically abusing his former partner, the mother of his children.

He also admitted causing the woman harm by a digital communication, a Facebook post with an image of her and a derogatory statement, “This woman sold my son to a child sex offender.”

The offences occurred last March. Counsel Tony Robinson said Irwin was now on a better path.

Things were going well for him, although there was a slip-up the week before when he again breached the protection order by refusing to leave the woman’s house — a relatively low-end offence, Mr Robinson said.

Irwin had done self-improvement work through Tauawhi Men’s Centre, was recently involved in a hui to review police safety orders and continued to front the anti-methamphetamine movement, particularly by producing rap music on that theme.

He had extricated himself from a gang.

A prison term would unravel that progress, Mr Robinson said. Irwin’s stance on the gang would mean he would have to be kept in isolation.

Judge Roberts sentenced Irwin to nine months supervision, to focus on programmes and counselling around family violence, and 175 hours community work — 30 of which were reimposed from an existing sentence that was cancelled.

The judge said it was only the outcomes achieved through restorative justice — a thoroughly worthwhile process for these parties — that dissuaded him from jailing Irwin.

An agreement was reached for Irwin to continue attending the men’s centre, not to contact the complainant directly and to do some voluntary work.

Irwin now understood contact with the complainant was strictly off-limits. She wanted nothing to do with him but was a reasonable woman who believed he should still have access to their children, the judge said.

A pre-sentence report noted Irwin was a positive parent.

Judge Roberts expressed concern about Irwin’s attitude to his former relationship with the complainant. His recent refusal to leave the woman’s house might seem low-end but given the background, it suggested a man unwilling and unable to let go, the judge said.

“I know you claim your children are the focus and priority but that does not entitle you to take out your issues with this woman.

“You are pushing boundaries and looking to secure control . . . playing with her mind.

“The children are a strong draw but so often manipulative men embark on these campaigns against women on that very pretext,” Judge Roberts said.

The judge referred to the complainant’s victim impact statement.

The woman said she was traumatised by the Facebook post, which caused her embarrassment and made her feel as if others were talking about her. People had threatened her.

Irwin’s refusals to leave when asked frustrated her, as did his unwillingness to leave her alone. His abuse was in front of their children.

He accused her of using methamphetamine but his actions made her think he was the “fried” one.

She wanted Irwin’s contact with their children to continue, but sometimes it was not appropriate, she said.