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Judge Michael Turner was wary at first.
He said he was contemplating prison, or at the very least home detention, for a 17-year-old appearing in the Queenstown District Court for his part in a piece of ''nasty street thuggery'' on a Dutch tourist in Wanaka on January 9.
At first, Beaudine Kenneth Wira's argument he was turning his life around did not look to be going anywhere.
But during a sentencing that took over an hour, with a defendant in tears in the dock, a girlfriend in tears in the gallery and Wanaka community workers stepping up in court to offer their help, prison faded as a prospect.
Judge Turner's final words to Wira were ''good luck''.
The teenager then stepped out of the dock with a three-month sentence of community detention that will keep him at home, in his Wanaka caravan, at night and at the weekends.
The facts relating to the charge of injuring with intent were not disputed by Wira.
Judge Turner recounted that one of Wira's brothers lured the tourist to the family's Albert Town home with the offer of drugs.
The tourist handed over $350 but then the drug deal went wrong.
The tourist ran ''in fear of his life''.
Judge Turner told Wira's counsel Peter Redpath his client ''got stuck in''.
The tourist was hit and knocked to the ground, stomped on and kicked and, according to his victim impact report, ''thought he was going to die''.
Wira admitted three punches on the occasion when the tourist was able to get to his feet.
But Mr Redpath had the paper work and the interviews to show another side to Wira.
Wira grew up in a gang house where drug abuse and violence were in evidence every day.
His mother and brothers had weapons used on them on occasions.
Wira, he said, ''had an image in his head'' of being ''force-fed'' drugs and whisky at around the age of 2. Mr Redpath outlined a ''life of neglect and physical abuse'', with no positive role model.
Wira was taken from his family and entrusted to the care of the state at an early age, but that ''went bad'' too, he said.
Reports to the court, Judge Turner said, showed when Wira was taken into care he was the ''victim of violence by those who were engaged to look after you''.
On one occasion, Wira's hand was put on an oven.
At this point, Wira began wiping away tears as he stood in the dock.
Judge Turner said: ''He has had an appalling upbringing, hasn't had the opportunities many people have had. I accept that.''
He noted, since the assault on the tourist, Wira was back at Mount Aspiring College as an adult student and was ''going pretty well''.
''I want to keep you at school,'' he told Wira.
Mr Redpath said since the assault, Wira had many restrictions placed on him.
He had abided by them all.
''He is distraught and angry with himself.''
Wira wanted a restorative justice session with the tourist, who had now left the country.
If he had the chance, Mr Redpath said, he would have told the tourist he was ''real sorry'' for what he had done and ''I'm not saying this just to get off the hook''.
Mr Redpath said Wira considered his family a poor influence on him.
''I am not going to succeed if I am with my mother. They just bring me down,'' Mr Redpath quoted Wira as saying.
Mr Redpath contrasted the help being offered by the Wanaka community now with how the community had failed him in the past.
He held up a photo showing Wira and his girlfriend at the high school ball, a privilege he did not abuse, leaving early because of the noise and the number of people.
''The court is in a position to bank on young people when over a period of time they have shown what they can do.''
Staff from Kahu Youth, in Wanaka, spoke up for Wira, committing themselves to close support.
Judge Turner said he was ''going to take a chance''.
He insisted Wira complete his 100 hours' community work without coming into contact with other offenders.
''I want you surrounded by people with positive outlooks on life.''