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Assault accused discharged without conviction

Thursday 9 November 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Court, National


Assault accused discharged without conviction

A 24-year-man has escaped conviction on a charge of common assault in light of his age and circumstances surrounding the incident.

Benny Benmarsters appeared before Justice of the Peace Tangi Taoro in the Criminal Court on Tuesday for sentencing.

Defence lawyer Mark Short said he had asked Benmarsters why he had assaulted the victim, and was told the victim, not from the Cook Islands, had been a project manager at the Edgewater Resort where they were both working.

The victim was “abrasive and critical, it was just a matter of time before the guy got a hiding,” Short said.

Short said the defendant had gone to empty some rubbish and been shouted at by the victim.

“I think the defendant just lost his cool.”

Short said the victim no longer lives in the Cook Islands, and it was understood the victim did not get along with any of the locals.

Benmarsters would have to carry a conviction for the rest of his life, and Short asked that his client be discharged without a conviction.

“It would be a stain on his record, it was not sustained punches, it was a slap.”

Short said the behavior was not excusable, but the incident was “inevitable”.

“If it was not him, it would have been one of the other workers.”

Short said young people didn’t always realise the consequences of their actions.

He asked JP Taoro to show leniency.

The assault was described as a slap with an open hand by the defence, while prosecution had noted it had been with a closed fist.

JP Taoro adjourned the matter to consider the submissions.

When the matter was recalled, the court heard police received a complaint on April 6, 2023 from the Edgewater Resort.

The victim had been working on a construction project, and the defendant had been cleaning the area up.

The victim told the defendant he was putting the rubbish in the wrong place, and an assault was then reported.

The defendant said the victim had continuously sworn at him, and that he hit the victim with an open palm.

Benmarsters lived with and supported his brother, and was described by his employer as a hard worker.

He had apologised and it was his first appearance in court.

The victim impact showed the victim had suffered a bruise to the lip.

There had been a recommendation for a suspended sentence or probation.

Given the circumstances and his age, JP Taoro said a discharge without conviction was appropriate.

Benmarsters was ordered to pay $50 court costs and $20 towards medical costs.