Trio avoid jail after 'pack attack' on students

Three Dunedin men involved in a violent pack attack which left two students unconscious and one in a bush have avoided imprisonment.

Cameron Nicholas Couch (20) was sentenced to six months' community detention - over the assault and another a serious beating he dealt out a month later - in the Dunedin District Court yesterday, while his friends Michael Patrick Cross (19) and Felix Robertson-Rolston (20) got three months.

Samuel Taylor Shaw (20) had his case delayed until next month to confirm his residence but Judge Michael Turner said it was likely he would receive a similar outcome.

''One was an entirely innocent group of men heading back to the halls of residence; the other was a pack of men who were fired up, intoxicated and decided to beat up the other group,'' the judge said.

Three students had been socialising at the Dunedin Botanic Garden on September 22 and were returning to their accommodation when they came across Couch arguing with his girlfriend on the corner of Opoho Rd and Knox St.

The men asked the woman if she was all right and she screamed back ''no''.

They crossed the road to inquire further and were met by Couch who told them to leave.

He threatened to ''call his boys'' if the students refused to leave.

When they remained on the scene, Couch followed through and told his co-defendants, who were drinking in a house nearby, that he had been jumped.

Despite the students being 100m down the road at this point, the men raced out of the house and ran them down.

The first victim was repeatedly punched to the ground and kicked until he was unconscious.

''You're not so tough now, are you,'' Couch taunted.

One of the victim's friends came to help him and made it clear he did not want to fight.

But Shaw punched him, then as he walked away, hit him again, sending him into a bush.

The defendant, along with two others who were given police diversion, then chased a third student who was also beaten unconscious.

''Not one of these men went to the aid of any of the unconscious men on the ground,'' Judge Turner noted.

''This was just thuggery; this was an attack.''

The victims all suffered abrasions and bruises, and one required dental work.

Couch - who shook his head as the judge read the facts - was also convicted of an assault a month later, when he was drinking in the Octagon.

He offered to fight another man and when he refused, Couch followed him down Princes St and forced the issue, punching and kicking him in the head several times.

Crown prosecutor Richard Smith said the defendant's attitude was ''alarming''.

Couch told Probation before sentencing that it was ''just a fight''.

''It's not a fight, it's an assault,'' Mr Smith said.

He also stressed the fact the men in the September assault had rushed to Couch's assistance, albeit on false information, did not help their cause.

''Vigilante justice is an aggravating feature, not a mitigating feature,'' he said.

Couch was also sentenced to 175 hours' community work and ordered to pay $440 reparation; Cross got 100 hours and $1500 reparation; and Robertson-Rolston got 100 hours and a bill for $275.

All defendants were sentenced to six months' supervision.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz