Defence case 'self-serving'

An Indian hotel worker's evidence in his defence on a charge of assaulting his girlfriend on a Queenstown street was thrown out by Judge Kevin Phillips for being ''self-serving, evasive and improbable'', in the Queenstown District Court yesterday.

Aalambir Nijjar (22), an Indian national living in Queenstown for the past 18 months, pleaded not guilty to the charge of assaulting Gabriele Perez in Shotover St on July 13 at 2am.

Judge Phillips said he found the charge ''proven'' and remanded the defendant on bail to appear on March 25, after defence counsel Phena Byrne sought a discharge without conviction.

Prosecuting Sergeant Ian Collin called booking agent Michelle Tatton, of Queenstown, as a witness. She said she and her partner, Ross Swinton, were at Fergburger when they saw the defendant grab the victim's upper arms and pull her forward, causing her top to rise up, exposing her back and bra.

Mr Swinton, a car rental employee, also of Queenstown, as a prosecution witness, said he crossed Shotover St from Fergburger to intervene, as did another passer-by, Queenstown bar manager Michael Hall, who also gave evidence yesterday.

Miss Tatton said she comforted Miss Perez while the two men took hold of Nijjar.

''She had a fresh cut on her chin,'' Miss Tatton said.

She testified Nijjar told Miss Perez not to say anything in case ''it will ruin my life''.

Arresting officer Constable Terry Wood, of Queenstown, said on the stand he was flagged down by several people while patrolling Shotover St.

Nijjar told Const Wood his girlfriend was going home to Peru in a few days. She was upset ''because she is lonely and she can't live without me'', the officer quoted the defendant as saying.

Asked if he slapped the victim, Nijjar said he just hugged her and denied his ''consoling'' squeezing of her cheeks hurt her.

Const Wood asked Nijjar if she wanted to be hugged and he said yes.

''I can do anything, she is my girlfriend.''

Nijjar denied slapping the victim on her face, grabbing her, pulling her towards him and telling her not to say anything.

In summing up, Judge Phillips said three individuals waiting for food saw things about which they were concerned enough to walk across the street.

Evidence from Nijjar was ''self-serving, evasive and improbable''.

The couple's argument developed to the point she was upset and he was yelling. He pulled her shoulders and she tried to pull away.

''There can be no question of consent to the application of force in such circumstances,'' the judge said.

He accepted the defendant intentionally slapped the victim once and told her not to say anything.

Ms Byrne said the defendant was paying back a loan to his family for his business education in Auckland and his work visa was due to expire in August.

He was concerned a conviction would block his New Zealand residency application and jeopardise his future.

Ms Byrne asked the judge to consider a discharge without conviction.

Judge Phillips said he found the charge proven and remanded Aalambir Nijjar on bail until the next available court date.

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