A young Dunedin man was ''psychotic'' on synthetic cannabis
when he threatened to kill himself, his former partner and
their child by driving into Otago Harbour earlier this year.
Only the quick thinking of 21-year-old Simon Leonard Howell's
former partner, who jammed the gear selector lever into the
''park'' position, brought the speeding vehicle to a halt
before it reached the harbour wall, Judge Kevin Phillips said
in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.
After the incident on Portsmouth Dr, soon after 1pm on March
30, Howell threatened to rob a South Dunedin dairy to get
synthetic cannabis. He had a pistol-style BB gun under the
He drove to his parents' place but left after an argument
with his former partner and his mother, then drove to his own
home. About 20 minutes later, he telephoned his former
partner and said if she came to the house again, he would
burn it down with her inside.
Because of her concern about the threats, the defendant's
mother called the police. She told them about the threats to
kill and said her son was ''a chronic user'' of synthetic
cannabis and kept a cache of weapons at his house.
Howell was arrested after an armed offenders squad callout to
his Mornington flat. He admitted having an extendable baton
beside the front door to chase people away. He also admitted
cultivating five cannabis plants at his home. He said he was
growing the cannabis to try to wean himself off synthetic
And he said he regularly threatened his girlfriend ''to get
her to shut her mouth''.
Howell was sentenced to four months' home detention for
threatening to kill his former partner, with concurrent terms
of three months for unlawfully carrying an imitation firearm;
two months for cultivating cannabis and unlawfully possessing
an offensive weapon and one month for threatening to kill his
former partner and their child.
The judge also ordered destruction of the extendable baton
and the imitation pistol.
As conditions of his intensive supervision, Howell must
attend and complete a stopping violence programme and other
counselling and treatment for substance abuse, particularly
synthetic cannabis, as directed.
Howell will be subject to those special conditions for
another six months after the end of his home detention.
Crown counsel Craig Power said the Crown believed the
offending warranted a prison term of about 18 months but
accepted a combination of community-based sentences might be
the final outcome. If the conditions suggested by the
probation officer were part of such a sentence, that could be
appropriate, Mr Power said.
It was clear the victim and her daughter, unsurprisingly, had
both been significantly affected by what happened.
Defence counsel John Westgate said there was no doubt the
incident was serious and had the potential to come
The police had become involved as a result of Howell's mother
phoning them, but she and the defendant's father had offered
him ''a huge amount of support''.
Howell had never been in trouble before, but then he ''got
hooked'' on synthetic cannabis.
Although the relationship with his partner had been
''fractious'', because of his major addiction to the
particular legal high, he could not cope with the ending of
Judge Phillips said the victim described the defendant as
''psychotic'' while on the drug.
''As she says, she couldn't get her head around you telling
her in the morning you loved her, then threatening to kill
her in the evening.''
Mr Westgate said the offending was very out of character and
Howell was ''adamant'' he would not go back on legal highs.
If, as recommended by probation, the defendant served his
home detention in Auckland where he would have work, he would
have ''a huge amount of support''.
But Howell was ''one of the lucky ones'' who had the support
of his parents.
Judge Phillips said it was relevant that Howell had a young
There would be major difficulties with seeing her if he was
The judge took into account the defendant had been in custody
since his arrest. That must have been ''a major experience''
for Howell, he said.
He also acknowledged the convictions were Howell's first and
that he was motivated to keep off cannabis and synthetic
cannabis, although he believed the defendant might have
minimised to probation his use of drugs.
And he told Howell that, while the victim had to spend more
than $1000 on repairs to her vehicle, the real harm had been
emotional. Both she and her child had been mentally and
physically strained and were receiving counselling.
''Your offending was serious, as was the impact,'' Judge