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attacked on routine walk

An Indian couple, enjoying their regular evening walk on a Gisborne street, were chased and attacked by a stranger, who then turned on someone who tried to help them, Gisborne District Court has heard.

Nathan Dean Tawhai Waru, 26, later admitted being the attacker in the October 9 incident, pleading guilty to two charges of assault with intent to injure.

He was recently sentenced for that and two unrelated incidents — his unlawful taking of a vehicle from Showgrounds Park and a domestic assault. Those other matters were represented with charges of burglary, breaching a protection order, common assault, and three counts of wilful damage.

Judge Warren Cathcart sentenced Waru to two months home detention, noting he had already spent 10 months remanded in custody — the equivalent of a five-month prison term.

The sentence also covered Waru's fines debt of $2091, which was cancelled.

Judge Cathcart said he was concerned Waru's random attack on the husband and wife might have been racially motivated, albeit that was not alleged in the accompanying summary of facts.

But if he was right, then Waru's behaviour was all the more appalling, the judge said.

Summarising Waru's offences, Judge Cathcart said the couple had been innocently walking along Balfour Road, Te Hapara — as they often did — about 7.30pm, when Waru crossed the road and punched the man several times in the head and side of his face.

As the couple started to run away, Waru pursued them, kicking the woman two or three times in the middle of her back. They continued to run with Waru continuing to chase them, saying “don't look at me”.

The third person assaulted during the incident by Waru was someone who noticed the incident while talking on his phone. Waru kicked him in the forearm then began chasing that man too. Another passerby helped him get away.

The incident with the vehicle at Showgrounds Park happened overnight between April 6 and 7, last year. Waru, who later said he was intoxicated, unlawfully entered a four-wheel-drive vehicle then crashed it in a nearby paddock. He banged his head on the windscreen, which caused him to bleed.

Waru initially decamped but later returned with a mate, to take the vehicle for a further joy ride.

Driving it out of the park, he damaged a barrier arm. The vehicle ran out of petrol on Lytton Road, so the pair pushed it on to a railway track and left it there, the court was told.

The burglary charge and one of the wilful damage charges related to that incident.

The protection order breach was in relation to Waru's partner, with whom he had an erratic relationship for about five years.

The judge said Waru sent the woman an alarming tirade of texts using Facebook Messenger. One message in which he threatened to “rip those c***s” was particularly concerning and she took it as a threat, worrying Waru was on his way to her house to assault people.

The further wilful damage charges arose on May 26, last year, when he was drinking alcohol at the woman's house and loudly said something to one of her children, causing an argument. Waru punched holes in a wall and smashed a television.

Judge Cathcart adopted a 15-month starting point, as submitted by counsel Leighvi Maynard, increasing it by one month for Waru's previous relevant convictions and by a further month for his status on bail during some of the offending.

There was a further month's uplift for cancellation of the fines.

The resulting 14-month prison term was reduced for Waru's time in custody, with the remainder commuted to the sentence of home detention.

Reparation of $454 was imposed for one of the wilful damage charges.