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Two Mosgiel teenagers who attacked a 16-year-old classmate after an end of school party could have been facing manslaughter charges ''or worse'', Judge Dominic Flatley told the pair in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.
Manaswee Jason McCunn (17), high school pupil, and Adam James Mutch (17), employed, had admitted a joint charge of injuring another youth with reckless disregard for his safety.
Both were drunk, as was the victim, when they chased him along Factory Rd about 1am on November 4, McCunn tackling him to the ground and Mutch standing over him and ''power punching'' him. When another young person tried to intervene, he was told to leave or he would also ''get a hiding''.
The attack resulted in the victim being taken to Dunedin Hospital where he had four stitches to a gash on the bridge of his nose. He also had two black eyes, swollen lips, cuts to the inside of his mouth and bruising to his right temple and behind his left ear.
At sentencing yesterday, public defender Campbell Savage said the victim had been friends with McCunn until not long before the party. But he then started directing racial abuse at him. The defendant was not ''a random street thug'', Mr Savage said. He had reason to be upset with the victim but that upset had manifested itself in an improper way and he now had a conviction for a very serious charge.
He was very remorseful about what he had done and understood he had put himself in the situation.
For Mutch, Debbie Ericsson said he recognised the inappropriateness of his actions and was very remorseful but had several times witnessed racial abuse against his friend. Like McCunn, Mutch had never been in court before and, as with the other defendant, alcohol was ''definitely a factor, Ms Ericsson said.
He had not drunk since the incident, had left school and was starting work. Judge Flatley said the situation clearly could have been more serious and the pair could have been facing ''a long time in prison''. Racial taunting was no excuse.
''That wasn't the problem. Alcohol was,'' he told the defendants. Both of them and the victim had been drinking far too much alcohol. People of their age were not meant to be out drinking unless with specific permission. And if McCunn and Mutch carried on drinking, they would be back in court.
In deciding whether prison should be the starting point for sentence, Judge Flatley took into account the seriousness of the violence in the attack which he said had been unprovoked and gratuitous, involving two people attacking the head of a victim who was vulnerable because he was on his own and affected by alcohol.
It was fortunate he sustained no lasting injury. He sentenced both McCunn and Mutch to four months' community detention with a curfew on Thursday to Sunday nights from 7pm to 5.30am (Mutch) and 7pm to 7am (McCunn). That would ensure both defendants remained at home across the weekend when friends and associates would be socialising.
''You won't be able to join them,'' he said.
The judge also sentenced the defendants to 200 hours' community work and ordered them to each pay reparation of $305.