Woman convicted for ‘wanton violence’ against strangers

A judge has refused an application for permanent name suppression by a Queenstown child-care centre worker who assaulted three people in the resort’s CBD and then punched a policewoman.

Sophie Alexandra Newbegin had interim name suppression until her sentencing in the Queenstown District Court this week on charges stemming from incidents on the night of May 25 last year.

After leaving a bar in Ballarat St, the 35-year-old Fernhill mother-of-three punched an unknown male victim in the head as she walked past him, snapping his head back.

Continuing along Rees St, she attacked Toni Evitts, punching her in the jaw.

When Ms Evitts and her companion, Gregory Haynes, tried to restrain Newbegin, she bit both of them on their arms.

After her arrest, she refused to obey instructions while being searched at the police station, and punched a policewoman in the face.

Counsel Bryony Shackell told Judge Kevin Phillips the defendant had "psychological vulnerabilities", and took medication for depression and anxiety.

She was under relationship and financial pressures from parenting her children without family support.

Publication of her name would cause her and her children "extreme hardship" because she would likely lose her job.

However, Judge Phillips said Newbegin’s offending was the result of intoxication, not mental health issues.

She had "not had the guts" to tell her employer about her criminal charges, he said.

Suppressing her name to prevent her employer finding out about her convictions for "wanton violence" would be wrong.

Newbegin worked part-time in the kitchen of a child-care centre, which meant her children could attend the centre at a discounted rate.

Judge Phillips questioned whether she should be employed "in an environment where there are young children".

She had carried out unprovoked attacks, in public, which had left her victims traumatised.

In her victim impact statement, Ms Evitts said she still had a scar on her arm, and remained shocked and disturbed by the "unbelievable experience".

Mr Haynes said he would never return to the resort, and was more conscious of his safety when out in public.

"It’s a shame that Queenstown now has this problem where people can be attacked on the streets unexpectedly," he wrote.

A psychologist’s report concluded Newbegin suffered from "situational anxiety", but there was no evidence she suffered from a major mental illness, the judge said.

Instead, her behaviour appeared to be the outcome of increased personal pressures and intoxication after a period of sobriety.

He convicted Newbegin on all charges.

For assaulting Ms Evitts with intent to injure, he sentenced her to 200 hours’ community work, 12 months’ supervision to enable intervention for drug and alcohol issues, and any other assessments and treatment required by the probation service.

She must pay Ms Evitts reparation of $285.

For assaulting Ms Evitts, Mr Haynes and the policewoman, she must complete 80 hours’ community work (concurrent), and for resisting police, she was sentenced to 12 months’ supervision (concurrent).




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