Violent attacks on partner blamed on dog

A man who violently attacked his partner for years claimed the dog caused her injuries, a court has heard.

Matt Thomas Barnes, 29, appeared in the Dunedin District Court last week and was sentenced to four years and 10 months’ imprisonment.

A jury previously found the defendant guilty of two charges of assault in a family relationship, two charges of strangulation and assault with intent to injure.

In April 2019, Barnes and his girlfriend had an argument, which the woman tried to walk away from.

She went up the stairs but the defendant grabbed her by her clothing and swung her into a wall.

The victim curled up and covered her face before Barnes pulled her hands away and spat on her.

On another occasion, the defendant hit the victim multiple times in the face, then dragged her by her hair and continued striking her face.

He then held her by the throat and smashed her head into the floor.

The woman required medical attention, but was afraid to tell hospital staff what had happened.

Barnes’ explanation was that the dog had caused his girlfriend’s black eyes.

In November 2020, the victim was pregnant with Barnes’ child.

She woke up when Barnes arrived home angry and slammed the door.

He strangled her and smashed her head into the arm of the couch.

Another incident involved Barnes putting his hands around the victim's throat while she was preparing a bottle for their child.

In a statement to the court, the woman said Barnes’ fits of rage were easily triggered.

"I would walk around on eggshells all the time wondering what would set him off," she said.

"I live in a constant state of fear, I never feel safe."

She hoped her child would never encounter someone like Barnes.

Judge David Robinson said the defendant showed no remorse.

"You maintain the charade that the victim’s injuries were caused by the dog," he said.

"This was supposed to be a loving relationship ... the victim was entitled to feel safe in her home, particularly when she was pregnant."

He said Barnes’ behaviour was "violent and demeaning".

The judge highlighted the seriousness of strangulation.

"You were demonstrating that you could kill," he said.

The court heard while the defendant received first and second strike warnings under the controversial three strikes law, he had no previous family violence convictions.