Man sentenced after harassing ex-partner

A Southland man whose campaign of harassment against a former partner culminated in attempted arson has failed in his appeal against conviction and sentence.

Waimatuku consultant Michael John Malone (54) put a tea towel in the oven of the woman’s Queenstown home on July 3, 2016, at 3.42am.

While no-one else was home, he turned up the heat, put on the oven’s fan and left, taking a bottle of whisky with him.

Earlier that night, he had assaulted the woman’s companion, Noel Gutzewitz, in a Queenstown bar, pushing him to the floor after making a throat-slitting gesture at his former partner.

She and Malone had an 18-month relationship, and when it ended, he did not take it well.

Over several months, he slashed her tyres, scratched her car, damaged its petrol tank, sprayed paint on her car and house, smashed plant pots and even placed a trip wire over her doorstep.

She had cameras installed, and had a trespass notice issued against him.

Malone was sentenced to four months’ community detention, 150 hours’ community work and nine months’ supervision in May last year on charges of attempted arson, burglary, assault and trespassing.

He appealed the attempted arson and burglary conviction in the Invercargill High Court this month. His lawyer argued that as the tea towel was placed in the oven it was not attempted arson, as such appliances were designed to deal with heat, and because he had left the whisky on the driveway, he had not intended to steal it.

But High Court Justice Gerald Nation said: ‘‘Her friend said . . . there was quite a lot of smoke in the house and smoke was pouring out of the oven . . .  ‘‘It proves, as would have been known to Mr Malone, that an oven is not airtight.’’ Justice Nation said it was reasonable to infer he intended to cause damage ‘‘either as a result of fire damage to the oven itself or through smoke damage to the room the oven was in’’.

The whisky bottle was not left in circumstances where it was clear Malone intended it to be recovered by the owner.

The appeal was dismissed

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