19 May 2017

Man sentenced for Porirua throat-cutting incident

8:45 am on 19 May 2017

A man shot and tasered by police in Porirua four years ago has been sentenced to three years and nine months imprisonment.

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Ruka Te Pono Hemopo, 51, was found guilty in the High Court in Wellington of wounding a woman with intent to injure her in an incident in which her throat was cut.

He was acquitted on a charge of attempting to murder her.

The woman, who was 18 weeks pregnant, narrowly avoided serious injury, a court was previously told.

Hemopo was also acquitted of wounding a second woman with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, after her elbow was smashed with a hammer.

The acquittals happened in his second trial. He had been convicted over charges against both women in an earlier trial, but the Court of Appeal ruled he should have a new hearing.

At that hearing, his lawyer argued Hemopo was a victim in this case, who had been assaulted with a knife by one of the complainants.

At the time of the incident, police tasered and shot and wounded Hemopo.

But an Independent Police Conduct Authority investigation found this was justified, and police did not break any laws.

The identity of the women in this case was suppressed.

Hemopo has already spent nearly four years in custody awaiting trial.

Hemopo pleaded not guilty to each charge.

In sentencing Hemopo on the assault charge, Justice Ellis said his victim was absolutely terrified and was afraid she was going to be killed.

She already had a protection order against him.

Justice Ellis said the cut needed 15 stitches and it was lucky the wound was not far worse, as it could have been fatal.

A man using a knife on a pregnant woman's throat was a very serious offence, she said.

The judge said the charge carried a maximum penalty of seven years jail but in this case a starting point would be five years.

There would be a 25 percent reduction because of the defendant's history of mental health problems, she said.

Hemopo was due to be released this evening, having served his sentence while awaiting trial.

However his lawyer, Quentin Duff, said Corrections had decided to keep Hemopo overnight, as all the staff who could have discharged him had gone home.

Mr Duff said Hemopo would likely be released in the morning, and Mr Duff would speak to him then.