Mashed potato thrown in 'nasty' assault

A Dunedin man who threw a plate of mashed potato at his former partner’s head has been ordered to undertake counselling.

Matthew Carl Henderson (23) had become a father after a "relatively short-term relationship" with the child’s mother, defence counsel Andrew Dawson told the Dunedin District Court yesterday. Henderson, who was "freaking out" about the impending birth, and the child’s mother agreed to live together so they could co-parent after the baby was born.

On June 12, their fraught relationship reached crisis point. After  words back and forth, Henderson punched the victim at least five times, "while she was curled up in a ball protecting her head".

The defendant’s aunt, at whose house they lived, tried to intervene but the attack continued.

Henderson went to scoop up the mashed potato from his plate to throw at his ex-partner but

he ended up projecting the entire plate at her head.

He followed that up with another flurry of punches, leaving the woman with  lumps on her head and bruises to her arms.Henderson later said he "snapped".

"It was a nasty, aggressive and totally unwarranted assault," Judge John Strettell said.

The defendant pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon and assault with intent to injure on the day his judge-alone trial was scheduled to proceed.

"This was an attack to the head on a vulnerable victim at the time. It was also a prolonged attack with little mitigating circumstances," the judge said.

"Mr Henderson simply lost control and was incapable of addressing what can be a stressful time for young parents in an appropriate way."

The violent outburst had prompted the pair to split permanently and Mr Dawson said his client now had fulltime care of the child.

"He has stepped up despite his initial misgivings over the situation," the lawyer said.

Judge Strettell was concerned Henderson had previously been ordered to attend counselling following a prior assault in 2013. He said that sentence should have seen  Henderson work through his anger-management problems.

The judge sentenced Henderson to four months’ community detention and nine months’ supervision, with the  direction therapy should focus on the defendant’s violent tendencies.

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