Appeal on car, gun theft sentence denied

Photo: File
Photo: ODT files
A man who stole a police car and two handguns, sparking a two-day manhunt across Southland has had his bid for a reduced sentence rejected.

Earlier this month, Hori Irimana Gemmell had appealed his sentence of three years and one month’s jail on the grounds it was excessive.

Justice Rachel Dunningham dismissed the appeal as she considered the end sentence reached by Judge Bernadette Farnan was within range.

Gemmell was sentenced in March 2020 after pleading guilty to unlawfully taking a vehicle, two charges of unlawfully being in possession of a pistol, unlawfully possessing ammunition in public, two charges of theft from a car and reckless driving.

The charges related to an incident in 2019, near Gore, where he stole a police patrol vehicle, two loaded pistols and remained at large for two days, despite a massive manhunt involving more than 50 police officers and raids on properties across the region.

During a hearing in the High Court at Invercargill this month, defence lawyer Scott Williamson said the starting point of 42 months’ in relation to the theft and possession of firearms charges was manifestly excessive.

He believed a starting sentence of no more than two years’ imprisonment should have been adopted and referred to cases involving burglary of firearms for which lesser sentences were imposed, saying Gemmell’s case had less premeditation than the other offending.

One firearm was recovered reasonably quickly and Gemmell assisted with the recovery of the other, he said.

However, Crown prosecutor Mike Brownlie highlighted that offending of this nature required a stern response, saying it was paramount to denounce the unlawful taking of the police vehicle and firearms, to deter others from committing similar offences.

A further aggravating factor was the sale of one of the pistols to a third party, he said.

Mr Brownlie said any harshness in the starting point for the pistol offending was mitigated by the "modest uplifts and generous discounts" so the sentence was appropriate.

In her decision, Justice Dunningham highlighted that Gemmell had pursued an appeal 10 months after the statutory timeframe for filing one against a sentence.

She granted leave to access appeal out of time but, after analysing the appeal, she dismissed the bid.

"Overall, although the judge could have given some discount for assistance to police, aspects of the sentencing favoured Mr Gemmell and I consider the end sentence reached by the District Court judge was within range."



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