27 Nov 2016

Tongan robber's crimes 'home grown' in NZ

10:18 am on 27 November 2016

An armed robber who left his victim with a fractured skull and a brain injury needing round-the-clock care has won a battle against deportation.

Inside Paremoremo Prison

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Solomone Tuitalau was jailed for five years over the baseball bat attack that left a disabled man in his 50s in a coma for seven weeks.

He came to New Zealand from Tonga when he was seven years old and was just 16 when he joined two other men in breaking into the man's home and stealing $10,000 worth of possessions.

The sentencing judge described the attack as prolonged, vicious and seemingly gratuitous, and said it happened when the group were hoping to buy drugs and the man refused them entry.

"They pushed him to the floor and beat him with a metal baseball bat and a metal pipe," the judge said.

"The victim was left on the floor, semi-conscious and partly clothed. The attack compounded the effects of an existing disability previously acquired as the result of a motor vehicle accident."

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal ruled Tuitalau should not be deported unless he committed another violent offence in the next five years.

Read the full Tribunal decision here

It said his offending was effectively "home-grown" as he had been in New Zealand for more than two-thirds of his life.

His father died when he was four and his aunt and uncle brought him to New Zealand, with up to 28 people staying in his family's four-bedroom house.

"These factors, combined with the fierce competition within a crowded household for the emotional and other resources of his primary caregivers, left the appellant vulnerable to antisocial peer groups - first in South Auckland and later when his family unwittingly placed him at the epicentre of local privation and substance abuse."

The tribunal heard he presented a moderate risk of further violent re-offending, but would be isolated if he was returned to Tonga, in what would be a "foreign" environment.

"The appellant's family members all live in New Zealand, with the exception of his biological mother, who has played little part in his upbringing and with whom he has no relationship.

"He identifies as a New Zealander and this is, in substance if not in law, his home country."

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