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‘Appalling, barbaric’

Woman permanently disfigured by social influencer’s brutal assault.

A man on bail after brutally disfiguring his partner was able to continue his interest in TikTok and became a social influencer with 76,000 followers, Gisborne District Court was told.

This upset the man’s victim and former partner of five years, who spoke about it in a victim impact statement read to the court on her behalf.

Having assaulted the woman to the point she could no longer recognise herself and was permanently disfigured, Michael Bishop Tai-Terekia, 31, spent nine months on electronically-monitored bail continuing his normal life’s interests.

That included furthering his presence on TikTok, making music videos and launching a clothing label.

He was now considered a “social influencer” but it was wrong for a violent offender to be idolised and put on a pedestal like that, she said.

She wanted him jailed as she worried what might happen to the next woman he got involved with.

“Home detention won’t cut it,” she said.

Tai-Terekia appeared for sentence after pleading guilty to a three strikes offence of injuring with reckless disregard, assault with intent to injure, assault on a person in a family relationship, and assault on a female.

The first three charges were in relation to the main victim; the fourth charge was in relation to his aunt.

Judge Turitea Bolstad reached an end prison term of 20 months. She said that although it was against her better judgement, she would convert it to 10 months home detention.

It was the least restrictive option and Tai-Terekia had proved he could comply with electronic monitoring, the judge said. The sentence would require him to address his offending behaviour.

The offending was “appalling and barbaric”, the judge said. Tai-Terekia should be ashamed of himself. Whatever rage got into him was not right and had changed his victim for life, physically and mentally.

The judge noted his mother played a role in it and hoped she did not condone her son’s actions because “no woman no matter what the circumstances, deserved to be beaten like that”.

Tai-Terekia not only inflicted serious injury on his partner but did not hesitate to exercise violence against his aunt, the judge said.

That mindset concerned her, as it should his mother.

The victim told the court she was in absolute terror when she fled from Tai-Terekia some time after 4am on Sunday, November 15, last year.

According to an agreed summary of facts, Tai-Terekia pummelled her head with his fist, dragged her along a hallway by her hair, and pushed her down a five-metre staircase. She suffered a wound that exposed her skull. Blood splattered on the stairwell wall as her head banged against it and she was rendered momentarily unconscious.

She came to as he was dragging her outside. She managed to stand up and jump a fence to a neighbour’s house.

He followed her there, banging on doors and windows, demanding she come outside but left when he knew police were coming.

His 62-year-old aunt tried to intervene early in the incident but Tai-Terekia gave her a barrel of verbal abuse and punched her in the back of the head.

His mother intervened too, but only to accuse his partner of ruining his life.

It made his partner snap and she punched the woman in the face, incensing Tai-Terekia and causing him to unleash his pummelling of her.

The victim was hospitalised after the incident and underwent surgery. She required numerous stitches for a large wound to her face.

She told the court it was a couple of days before she could open one of her eyes, which was so badly swollen it was almost sealed shut.

It was a month before she could walk without crutches. She was permanently disfigured. She and others were shocked by her appearance.

There was no way of hiding her scar. No makeup could cover it. Her face and life had changed forever. Her confidence was gone, the incident still gave her nightmares, and had ruined her trust in men, she said.

The summary of facts recorded five previously-reported family harm incidents between the couple.

The woman’s two children from a previous relationship were present but asleep at the time of the incident.

Tai-Terekia’s aunt was not injured from the punch she sustained.

Police found Tai-Terekia asleep in his bed. He told them his partner might have harmed herself using a butcher’s knife.

Judge Bolstad fixed a sentence starting point of 30 months imprisonment for the charges relating to Tai-Terekia’s partner, with a two-month uplift for the charge involving his aunt.

A full 25 percent discount was given for guilty pleas, along with four months discount in recognition of time spent on electronically-monitored bail.

Tai-Terekia had a past conviction for a domestic assault but it was from 2013 so would not be taken into account, the judge said.

She refused to give any discount for remorse, noting a pre-sentence report writer’s comment that Tai-Terekia laid blame squarely at the feet of his partner and aunt.

Counsel Alistair Clarke said Tai-Terekia was remorseful but probably misunderstood the process, particularly as it pertained to resolution of the most serious charge.

As use of electronic devices or social media was not a part of the offending, there are no special conditions of Tai-Terekia’s sentence of home detention to preclude him from using these devices or continuing his social media pursuits.

If jailed, he would not be able to access a computer without supervision.

File picture via AP