A Tauranga man has narrowly avoided jail after he admitted firing a BB pistol at a group of schoolchildren and struck an 11-year-old Mount Intermediate student in the ankle.
Aaron Luke Wilton-Jones, 19, who earlier pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and assault with a firearm, was sentenced to three months' home detention and 60 hours' community work in Tauranga District Court yesterday.
The charges stem from Wilton-Jones' actions on the afternoon of June 17.
About 3.15pm while driving north on Ranch Rd, Wilton-Jones and his alleged co-offender spotted numerous groups of schoolchildren and each took turns shooting at them using a gas-powered BB pistol containing plastic pellets.
The pellets struck the children and hit a 11-year-old Mount Maunganui Intermediate student in the ankle, splitting the skin, causing a large welt and an open wound. The injury also caused significant pain and required medical treatment.
Wilton-Jones and an associate then continued to drive around Mount Maunganui central area, firing more plastic pellets at groups of children.
Lawyer Jim Smylie told Judge Thomas Ingram his client, who had participated in a restorative justice meeting, had not thought through the potential horrific implications of his actions.
Mr Smylie said having also read the victim impact statements, Wilton-Jones was very remorseful and "ashamed of himself".
One restorative justice meeting outcome was for Wilton-Jones to visit the school and give a speech to the students about what he had learned from the experience.
"This is a young man who has done very well for himself, operating his own business, until this foolish hiccup. Aaron is a young man of some ability and he has a great future ahead of him if he can overcome this, and I ask the court to show him some leniency," he said.
Judge Ingram told Wilton-Jones that he took a very dim view of anyone shooting at people with any type of firearm, and the victim impact statement made it clear that the 11-year-old victim had some ongoing concerns about walking around in public.
"To your credit you have participated in a restorative justice meeting, during which it must have been made very clear to you how very serious your actions were. You easily could have taken out someone's eye, " he said. Judge Ingram said the usual sanction for assault with a firearm was a maximum of four years' prison but was prepared to grant home detention.
Outside court last night Wilton-Jones told the
he struggled to understand why he offended in this way.
"I shot off a couple of rounds without really thinking about the consequences. I'm very regretful, ashamed and quite embarrassed about what I've done. It showed some real immaturity on my part and I definitely know what I was did was a lot more serious and dangerous than I realised."
Wilton-Jones said the seriousness was brought home to him again when he met the 11-year-old victim and his irate father, the school principal and also stood in front of 300 students at the school, and had to explain himself.
Aaron's father Chris Wilton-Jones said he and his wife were shocked when they heard about their son's actions, which was definitely out of character.
Mr Wilton-Jones said his son had paid the price for his rash behaviour, and he was proud of him for "manning up".
"Hope some good comes from this," he said.
Wilton-Jones' alleged co-offender is defending the charges.
Mr Wilton-Jones featured in the Bay of Plenty Times last year after he was blinded in his left eye by a chisel on his second day of work. His employer was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $15,000 reparations.