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A man has been sentenced to home detention for what a judge called one of the "most bizarre acts" he had come across in his many years on the bench.
Lyle Lehoaroa Tahau (48) would be spending six months restricted to a Tokoroa address after subjecting a vulnerable young woman to a "vile" half-hour ordeal, the Dunedin District Court heard yesterday.
The defendant pleaded not guilty to a charge of committing an indecent act but was found guilty by Judge Michael Crosbie at a trial last month.
In February, Tahau decided to move from Dunedin to the North Island and sold his car to a company, which agreed to drop him off in the vehicle at the airport. Picked up by a young woman, the defendant almost immediately began viewing pornography on his cellphone while he had a hand down his shorts.
At trial Tahau accepted he was viewing the lewd footage and admitted to wearing no underpants that day.
His explanation, however, was that he was scratching a rash.
Tahau claimed he had found a memory card in the vehicle and had inserted it into his phone to see what it contained.
Judge Crosbie said that once the man discovered the explicit videos, there was no valid explanation for why he continued to view it.
The female driver told the court yesterday the incident had severely affected her mental state and she continued to blame herself. She had been coming to terms with her anxiety but the event resulted in her feeling "nervous and constantly on edge".
"I felt like pulling over and running from the car. I was running on fear. This was disgusting," the victim said.
"You broke my soul a little bit that day."
Judge Crosbie described her as a "very brave woman" and one of the best witnesses to give evidence before him for a long time.
"This was strange and very bizarre behaviour and I can understand the terror and fear you found yourself in," he said.
"You have done nothing wrong. You’ve done nothing to be ashamed about. I hope you see yourself as a survivor and not a victim. Don’t let the Mr Tahaus of this world define you."
The court also heard, while on bail, the defendant breached a protection order during a stint living with an on-off partner in Lawrence.
On June 25 she had been preparing to leave the house, when Tahau asked for a ride.
An argument resulted in him throwing a coffee mug at her and chasing her around her car as she spoke to police.
It was, Judge Crosbie said, further evidence of the man’s attitude towards women, which needed to be strongly deterred.
Counsel Meg Scally stressed her client had suffered two serious head injuries since 2008 and suggested the unusual behaviour could at least in part be attributed to that.