Pair suffered 'extreme, unprovoked violence'

Helen Luafitu narrowly avoided a prison sentence for attacking two pedestrians. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
Helen Luafitu narrowly avoided a prison sentence for attacking two pedestrians. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
A Dunedin woman punched her first victim in the face repeatedly, and stomped on her second victim's head three times - all because they crossed the road too slowly.

Helen Luafitu (22) later said: "I'm an angry person but not a violent person".

Judge Kevin Phillips had a different take when the woman appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.

"You need to understand you are a violent person," he said.

"This was extreme, unprovoked violence ... a prolonged attack on two victims, increasing in seriousness."

Luafitu pleaded guilty to injuring with intent to injure and assault with intent to injure in the months following the February 11 attack, which left two women seriously injured.

The defendant was in a vehicle driving south in Princes St as a group of people crossed in front of them.

Frustrated at how long it took them to clear the road, Luafitu hurled abuse at the pedestrians.

A man yelled back.

"That was the end for you," the judge said.

First Luafitu punched the man in the face - an assault for which she was not charged - before moving on to a woman.

Multiple punches sent the victim to the ground and the defendant inflicted a flurry of further blows as she lay there.

"But you were not done," Judge Phillips told the court.

Luafitu dragged a second woman to the ground by her hair with such ferocity she ripped a clump from her scalp.

As the "defenceless and disorientated" woman curled up to try to protect herself, the defendant stomped on her head three times.

She threw several punches and then kicked the victim in the back six times before she was hauled away.

The victim sustained four cracked ribs, internal bleeding and bruising to her lungs. She was missing hair from behind her left ear, the court heard, and suffered a fractured right cheekbone, broken teeth and excruciating headaches for days after the attack.

The other woman had an injured jaw but the psychological impact was worse.

"She already had problems with severe anxiety and this has totally multiplied that," Judge Phillips said.

Luafitu, he said, minimised her violence and the role alcohol played in her life.

She underwent a drug and alcohol assessment during which, the judge believed, she attempted to disguise her "very serious issues with alcohol".

Already a mother of one, it was revealed in court yesterday that Luafitu had a second child due in February.

Had the violence resulted in more serious charges she would have been giving birth in prison, Judge Phillips said.

"For a woman of 22 [to be sent to prison] would be a life-changing event. The chances of you recovering your life would be minimal in my view," he said.

Luafitu was sentenced to nine months' home detention and 200 hours' community work and ordered to pay sums of $750 and $500 to her victims.




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