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An Arrowtown man has successfully defended a charge of assaulting his then-partner by arguing he believed she was about to drive drunk.
But Kenny John Frisby (45) was convicted and censured by the judge for trying to dissuade her from giving evidence at his trial.
Frisby, a tax agent, and his ex-partner Megan Lowish gave sharply contrasting versions of what transpired on October 19 and 20 last year. What was clear was they had both been drinking.
The case went to trial before Judge John Strettell in the Queenstown District Court this week after Frisby denied assaulting the complainant.
He had already admitted threatening her on January 7 by saying "I am not going down for this" and ‘if I do, you look out man" during a conversation she covertly recorded.
Ms Lowish said she was "desperately" trying to get out of the 14-year relationship when she returned to the family home after a trip to Thailand.
She told Frisby she would stay that night then move out.
After a series of incidents in which he had been "hassling" her about saving their relationship, he went to a downstairs bedroom about 1.30am and dragged her out of bed.
She ran out and up some stairs, at which point he grabbed her skirt, then went past and blocked her path. He then kicked her breast as she tried to get past.
The scuffle ended when the younger of their two children appeared on the scene.
It had "never crossed my mind" to drive to her new apartment, she said.
Frisby told the court he had drunk about a litre of cider when he went to the bedroom intending to talk to her about her drinking.
But she became "enraged" and jumped out of the bed, telling him she was going to her new apartment immediately.
Thinking she was about to drive there while drunk, he followed her upstairs and grabbed her clothing to stop her, at which point she fell on the stairs. He then got past and blocked her way.
"She was drunk," he said.
He conceded his leg may have come into contact with her during the scuffle, but not in a kicking fashion.
After she went downstairs and outside, he hid the keys to both their cars.
In his decision yesterday, Judge Strettell said he accepted an assault had occurred, but that Frisby had applied force in an "unusual" sense of self-defence; he had been attempting to stop the complainant from driving.
"It did not matter if that was true, but whether he believed this might happen."
The police had not proved beyond reasonable doubt the use of force was unreasonable or disproportionate, and he dismissed the charge.
The court then heard that on January 7, when the complainant dropped off the children at Frisby’s home, he spoke threateningly to her during a six-minute conversation she recorded.
Frisby’s lawyer, Bill Dawkins, said although the defendant had been frustrated to be facing what he considered an unjust charge, he had "no right to be pressurising the complainant in that way".
Judge Strettell said the second charge was "very close" to one of attempting to defeat the course of justice, for which a prison term could be imposed.
Frisby’s behaviour was inappropriate, illegal and irresponsible.
He convicted Frisby, fined him $1000 and ordered him to pay the complainant $350 emotional harm reparation.