Judge Michael Turner was wary at first.
He said he was contemplating prison, or at the very least
home detention, for a 17-year-old appearing in the Queenstown
District Court for his part in a piece of "nasty street
thuggery'' on a Dutch tourist in Wanaka on January 9.
At first, Beaudine Kenneth Wira's argument he was turning his
life around did not look to be going anywhere.
But during a sentencing that took over an hour, with a
defendant in tears in the dock, a girlfriend in tears in the
gallery and Wanaka community workers stepping up in court to
offer their help, prison faded as a prospect.
Judge Turner's final words to Wira were "good luck''.
The teenager then stepped out of the dock with a three-month
sentence of community detention that will keep him at home,
in his Wanaka caravan, at night and at the weekends.
The facts relating to the charge of injuring with intent were
not disputed by Wira.
Judge Turner recounted that one of Wira's brothers lured the
tourist to the family's Albert Town home with the offer of
The tourist handed over $350 but then the drug deal went
The tourist ran "in fear of his life''.
Judge Turner told Wira's counsel Peter Redpath his client
"got stuck in''.
The tourist was hit and knocked to the ground, stomped on and
kicked and, according to his victim impact report, "thought
he was going to die''.
Wira admitted three punches on the occasion when the tourist
was able to get to his feet.
But Mr Redpath had the paper work and the interviews to show
another side to Wira.
Wira grew up in a gang house where drug abuse and violence
were in evidence every day.
Wira's mother and brothers had weapons used on them on
Wira, he said, "had an image in his head'' of being
"force-fed'' drugs and whisky at around the age of 2.
Mr Redpath outlined a "life of neglect and physical abuse'',
with no positive role model.
Wira was taken from his family and entrusted to the care of
the state at an early age, but that "went bad'' too, he said.
Reports to the court, Judge Turner said, showed when Wira was
taken into care he was the "victim of violence by those who
were engaged to look after you''.
On one occasion, Wira's hand was put on an oven.
At this point, Wira began wiping away tears as he stood in
Judge Turner: "He has had an appalling upbringing, hasn't had
the opportunities many people have had. I accept that.''
He noted, since the assault on the tourist, Wira was back at
Mt Aspiring College as an adult student and was "going pretty
"I want to keep you at school,'' he told Wira.
Mr Redpath said since the assault, Wira had many restrictions
placed on him.
He had abided by them all.
"He is distraught and angry with himself.''
Wira wanted a restorative justice session with the tourist,
who had now left the country.
If he had the chance, Mr Redpath said, he would have told the
tourist he was "real sorry'' for what he had done and "I'm
not saying this just to get off the hook''.
Mr Redpath said Wira considered his family a poor influence
"I am not going to succeed if I am with my mother. They just
bring me down,'' Mr Redpath quoted Wira as saying.
Mr Redpath contrasted the help being offered by the Wanaka
community now with how the community had failed him in the
He held up a photo showing Wira and his girlfriend at the
high school ball, a privilege he did not abuse - leaving
early because of the noise and the number of people.
"The court is in a position to to bank on young people when
over a period of time they have shown what they can do.''
Staff from Kahu Youth, in Wanaka, spoke up for Wira,
committing themselves to close support.
Judge Turner said he was "going to take a chance''.
He insisted Wira complete his 100 hours' community work
without coming into contact with other offenders.
"I want you surrounded by people with positive outlooks on