16 Feb 2013

Journalist's attacker had previous violence convictions

9:23 pm on 16 February 2013

The family of a Radio New Zealand journalist fatally attacked in central Wellington says he would still be alive if his killer had been locked up for his previous convictions.

Nicho Waipuka, 20, has been jailed for 12 years and 10 months, with a minimum non-parole period of eight-and-a half years, for the manslaughter of radio bulletins editor Phillip Cottrell.

It has emerged that Waipuka was on the brink of going to jail for other offences and was under intensive supervision at the time of the offence.

During sentencing at the High Court in Wellington on Friday, the court was told that Waipuka had 24 previous convictions, of which three were for violence.

Mr Cottrell died in hospital a day after he was attacked as he walked to his central Wellington home about 5.30am just after finishing an overnight shift on 10 December 2011.

Waipuka had admitted punching Phillip Cottrell, but the judge rejected the suggestion that Mr Cottrell had received his fatal injuries by falling on concrete after he was hit and said they were caused by two kicks as he lay on the ground.

Waipuka on intensive supervision

Seventeen days before he killed Phillip Cottrell, Waipuka was sentenced at a Lower Hutt court to 18 months' intensive supervision for an assault and was warned he would be jailed if he reoffended.

Mr Cottrell's sister Sue Hollows said she was shocked to find out that Waipuka had attacked other people in the months before he killed her brother.

She said Waipuka should have been locked up, not given a second chance.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesperson Ruth Money said Waikpuka was a violent offender and should not have been allowed to walk free.

"We had 24 chances to keep this guy off the street and unfortunately no-one stepped in and did anything about it, and Phillip Cottrell paid with his life."

Brother-in-law Heath Hollows said Mr Cottrell's killer should have been made to give evidence.

He said there should be a law change so that when someone is accused of a crime, and there's no doubt they were at the scene, they should lose the right to be silent.

"They should be put in the witness box. They should be made to give their side of it. If they were definitely innocent they'd be crying out innocence, but they have all the rights in the world to sit back and do absolutely nothing ... while everything's done for them by these professional highly paid lawyers."