Tuesday 23 May 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Court, National
Iorama Ngataua appeared before Justice Christopher Toogood in the High Court on Monday for sentencing. He faced sentencing on two charges of wilful damage, one of a threatening act, one of threatening to kill, one of assault with intent to injure and three charges of contempt of court.
The charges relate to events on September 14, 2020, September 26, 2021, September 5, 2022 and December 17, 2022.
Crown counsel Jamie Crawford told the Court that many of the offences amounted to serious cases of domestic violence and should not be given leniency. Crawford suggested a custodial sentence should be the only outcome.
In the first incident, Ngataua became angry with the complainant after observing a wet patch on the back of her shorts. She explained to him that the wet patch was the result of the work she did; Ngataua was not satisfied, became irrational and began yelling.
He smashed the right rear window of the complainant’s vehicle. Seizing a nearby petrol canister, he began pouring petrol through the open driver’s window of the car and then turned his attention to another van which, by this time, had returned and was parked nearby. He poured petrol through the van and then moved over to the house.
Ngataua threw the petrol canister into the living area, where it struck a wall. More petrol spilled inside the house. Ngataua then began looking in the vehicle for a lighter or matches, saying he was going to burn the house down.
Justice Toogood told Ngataua that his actions were irrational and were fueled by alcohol and jealousy.
He said the victim impact statement revealed the owner of the house and the owner’s family were so scared by Ngataua’s behaviour that they kept a light on during the nights in case they needed to respond to some disturbance.
Justice Toogood said the owner of the house was “genuinely fearful” that there could have been serious damage to the house.
“You have the potential to become a good citizen,” Justice Toogood told Ngataua. “But unless you actively address your issues, it will be a continuing pattern of offending.”
Justice Toogood told Ngataua that he found him to be “intelligent” and “entirely respectful of Court procedures” during the defended hearing where Ngataua represented himself.
“You will need considerable help to realise your potential…you lack the tools to manage your emotions and need assistance to form healthy relationships,” Justice Toogood told Ngataua.
On the charge of assaulting a female, where Ngataua hit a girl on September 26, 2021, and on the second wilful damage of a vehicle charge, Ngataua damaged a vehicle by breaking the window on September 5, 2022.
Justice Toogood noted the Court took all instances of domestic violence very seriously.
On the first charge of contempt of court, Ngataua was ordered by the High Court not to contact or interfere with witnesses or complainants relating to the matters before the Court and he disobeyed this by verbally abusing the complainant.
On December 17, 2022, Ngataua sent several threatening texts to the original complainant. By this stage, Ngataua was separated from the complainant and living on a boat. Later that day, Ngataua got into an argument with the boat owner, punching him multiple times. The boat owner subsequently had to take three weeks off work.
It also resulted in another contempt of Court charge, when a constable arrested Ngataua and at the time of the arrest his breath smelt like alcohol. His bail conditions had included not to consume or purchase alcohol.
Justice Toogood noted that the probationary report indicated that Ngataua posed a “high risk” of reoffending, while Ngataua’s list of prior offences was “comprehensive”, dating back to when he was convicted for burglary at age 16. Ngataua is now 34.
“You are capable of behaving responsibly. Too often, it is a combination of alcohol and frustration that leads to your offences,” Justice Toogood told Ngataua.
In sentencing Ngataua, Justice Toogood noted the time he had spent in custody and on bail, which was close to seven months.
On the wilful damage, assault on a female, threatening to kill and threatening act charges, Justice Toogood sentenced Ngataua to six months’ prison concurrently, and on the assault with intent to injure charge, Justice Toogood sentenced him to nine months’ prison. He was convicted and discharged on the contempt of court offences.
The total time in prison will be 15 months, and will be followed by a period of 12 months’ probation, during which time he will undergo appropriate counselling.
“There is some hope for rehabilitation and an opportunity to do so. You need to manage your moods,” Justice Toogood told Ngataua, noting that Ngataua’s mental health assessment did not find him to be mentally unwell.
“Whether you are able to change your ways is entirely in your own hands.”