Domestic abuser created ‘a household that was ruled by fear’

A trail-blazing aviation engineer who habitually beat his wife for three years and a month has been sentenced to the same time behind bars.

Sekaia Navara (36) appeared in the Dunedin District Court this week where he was sentenced to three years and a month behind bars.

"It’s not a stern response, it’s a fair one," Judge David Robinson said.

Navara was the first indigenous Fijian helicopter engineer, counsel Rajendra Chaudhry said, and would lose his aviation maintenance licence if incarcerated.

Navara had funded his career path by selling food by the roadside in Fiji.

"It would be a very strong punishment, and a lifetime’s punishment at that," Mr Chaudhry said.

He argued Navara should have his sentence significantly discounted for the "patriarchal" culture in which he was raised, where domestic violence was more prevalent than most other countries.

Home detention was the appropriate response for the first-time offender, Mr Chaudhry pressed.

Judge Robinson acknowledged the cultural complexities but deemed an electronically monitored sentence inappropriate.

"This was a household that was ruled by fear," he said.

"It’s completely unacceptable in modern New Zealand society for a male to assume that kind of role."

The violence began in October 2016, when the victim was four months pregnant with their second child.

After a verbal altercation, Navara pulled his wife off
a bed then dragged her to a hallway as she tried to protect her unborn child.

The bare-footed defendant jumped on her head twice then stood on her for a minute.

The next three years followed a pattern — Navara would take out any frustrations on his partner, usually punching her a couple of times in the face, kicking her or backhand slapping her.

"I should just kill you, put a knife to your throat," he would say.

The final act came when Navara attacked the victim with a plastic skateboard, striking her in her arms as she shielded her head.

"Your crying is fake and ugly," he said, before she went to police.

In a statement, which the judge described as "harrowing", the woman tearfully described how she had feared for her life during the relationship.

When she left Navara and was housed by Women’s Refuge she had $20 to her name.

She was forced to rely on food banks and the church for assistance until she found full-time employment, she said.

The decision to leave the defendant had seen her ostracised from the local community and she said Navara’s mother had threatened to disown her grandchildren unless the victim withdrew the police complaint.

"I wish Sekaia well with his future but that future does not include me," she said.

Judge Robinson held the victim up as a shining example for other woman.

"You have shown real courage in coming forward," he said.

"No-one has to put up with the scourge of domestic violence and I urge others in similar circumstances to come forward."

In an interview with Probation before sentencing, Navara shifted responsibility to his wife and said he only pleaded guilty to the violence charges as part of a "plea deal".

 

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