‘Cultural displacement’ cited in assaults

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
A refugee who viciously beat his daughters has been spared jail after a report shed light on the "cultural displacement" he had undergone.

The man, aged in his 30s, was granted permanent name suppression to protect the identity of his family after he appeared in the Dunedin District Court this week.

The court heard the defendant assaulted one of his daughters so extensively she had to be kept home from school for a week, and the other was so badly hurt she was unable to walk in the aftermath of the hiding.

"They were not the actions of a loving, caring father. They were the actions of a coward and denote thuggery," Judge Emma Smith said.

The police referred it as "honour" violence but defence counsel Alex Bligh, drawing a 55-page cultural report, argued that was not the case.

"The report writer says [the defendant] was not trying to shame [the victims] or restore the family honour ... and this type of assault is not something that could be condoned by his culture or religion," Ms Bligh said.

"It’s clear that he now realises that while he thought he was trying to protect his daughters, his actions had the opposite effect. This realisation has been very upsetting to him."

The judge accepted there were generalisations in the court documents that were not appropriate.

Ms Bligh said the attacks were intrinsically linked to her client’s distressing experiences living in war-torn countries before he brought the family to New Zealand.

"He assaulted them due to a myriad of complex reasons, including the displacement he felt, the trauma, the cultural shock," she said.

The first incident, on September 1 last year, was sparked by the defendant seeing his teenage daughter communicating with a male on social media.

The pair had been seeing each other secretly for four months.

"You boiled over beyond belief," the judge said.

The man hit his daughter in the face then kicked her in the back as she lay on the floor.

He struck her with a belt several times, dragged her by the hair and spat in her face twice, the court heard.

Three weeks later, his younger daughter got the same treatment.

The defendant saw a ring on her finger and a social media post about a boy that had garnered 400 likes.

He pulled off the jewellery then took to her with the belt, using both the strap and the buckle.

Next he hit her with a phone charger and finally made the girl kiss his feet.

As the injured victim crawled around on her hands and knees, the defendant dragged her around the room by her hair, pulling clumps of it out.

The younger girl felt guilty and was worried people would hold her responsible for putting her father behind bars, but her sister took a different view.

She said she did not care if the refugee community shunned her.

"If I have kids in the future, I will teach them to be respectful and not use violence," the victim said.

Judge Smith said the family had fled their home and spent years living in a single garage in another country before arriving in New Zealand.

"You were driven by your need to protect them from death and deprivation in the hope of a better life, leaving behind family and people you love, a culture you understood, a faith easily practised," she said.

The charges of assault with intent to injure and injuring with intent to injure had kept the man from his family for 15 months, the court heard.

The judge sentenced him to nine months’ home detention but it did not mean an immediate reunion.

The defendant was to live apart from them and would only be allowed to see the victims with Probation’s permission.




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