Life ‘spiralled’ into violent crime

A Dunedin man who pointed a replica pistol at a teenage girl’s head and threatened to rape her has been jailed for more than five years.

It was one of three violent crimes, committed over the course of a year, for which Trent Willis (20) was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court this week.

Judge Michael Crosbie said it was rare for someone so young to be involved in such frequent and serious offending.

"There just seems to me that there’s a belief amongst some that they can do what most of society regards as quite extreme, to get things of little value," he said.

"Is it coming from TV programmes, is it coming from games or is it coming from a sense of self-entitlement among young people?"

While on bail for stealing a singlet from a sports shop in September last year, Willis organised to buy a phone through Facebook.

When the deal went wrong, he lured the sellers to South Dunedin, where he pulled a replica pistol on them.

The defendant punched the 16-year-old boy who met him, pointed the weapon at his chest and demanded his money back.

Willis then turned his attention to a 15-year-old girl.

He pushed her into a wall, held the pistol close to her head and said he would "beat the s... out of her" and rape her.

The teens agreed to take him to a nearby address, where he was refunded $50 by a third party and told to leave.

When Willis said he would be back, they called police.

The court heard the defendant had attended high school in Christchurch and only moved to Dunedin with his mother when the earthquakes struck.

He had planned to attend university, he wrote in a letter to the judge, but when his grades did not meet the standard, his life started "spiralling".

After the cellphone incident, Willis went back to Christchurch.

On September 27, he went to the home of his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend, where he set fire to a portacom-turned-sleepout 2m from the house.

The structure was destroyed and the house sustained significant fire damage, leaving a repair bill of $13,883.

After an argument with a girl days later, he threatened to kill her while wielding an air gun.It was enough for him to be remanded behind bars.

But the violence did not stop there. On September 27 this year, a group of five prisoners, including Willis, attacked another inmate.

The 36-year-old victim, from Christchurch, was locked up facing an allegation of murder.

Willis was one of the last people to join the pack attack but when he did, he put in several kicks and punches.

The victim was later found unresponsive in his cell and suffered seizures as a result of the attack.

Willis explained the incident by saying the murder-accused had been using standover tactics to take their belongings and they had grouped together to strike back.

In reference to the teenage victims, the defendant made the comment: "If you fight with fire, you’re going to get burned."

Judge Crosbie said the use of weapons in two of the incidents was particularly concerning.

"This is New Zealand. We have a really strict regime of gun ownership and licensing," he said.

"There should be no reason for anybody walking on our streets to imagine anyone’s running around with a gun."

The judge accepted Willis had promise and recommended he undertake one-on-one psychological counselling while incarcerated.

The 20-year-old was jailed for five years and four months.

 

A mother’s pain

When her 16-year-old son called her to say he had had a gun pulled on him but was uninjured, she was relieved.

But she told the Dunedin District Court this week she had no idea of the ongoing impact the ordeal would have on the teenager.

"He was an easygoing young lad with ... plans for the future and lots of friends," she said.

"On September 16, Trent Willis changed all that."

The victim has name suppression because of his age and his mother’s identity cannot be published.

She said her son had since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which had manifested in a variety of ways.

There were sleepless nights, headaches, loss of appetite, vomiting, mood swings and substance abuse.

Despite the efforts of the victim’s teachers, he dropped out of school early, with no qualifications, and withdrew from his group of friends.The hardest part though, his mother said, was seeing her son pull away from the family.

"While I know in time I’ll get my boy back ... this offending has had a lasting effect on him and our family."

It was 15 months before Willis pleaded guilty and the woman said she did not believe he was remorseful.

"I am left frustrated and angry," she said.

Willis was given the opportunity to address the woman in court: "I hear, from your letter, the pain. I just want to say sorry to you and your whole family."

 

The charges

1x shoplifting

1x assault

1x assaulting a female

1x possession of a weapon

1x presenting a firearm

3x threatening to do grievous bodily harm

1x threatening to kill

 

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

1x arson

1x injuring with intent to injure

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