Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Robber's penalty appals aged victim

Teen's attack while on bail left 81-year-old disabled for life, but he gets home detention, not jail as Crown wanted

Darren Fidow.  Photo / Supplied
Darren Fidow. Photo / Supplied

A teenager on bail when he robbed an 81-year-old woman, breaking her hip and wrist and disabling her for life, has been sentenced to home detention.

But Darren Fidow's elderly victim wants him jailed and is demanding a harsher sentence.

Patricia Sutcliffe's hip and wrist were badly broken when she was robbed in 2011. She was in hospital for more than three months, is in constant pain and can no longer walk without a crutch.

Auckland Crown Solicitor Simon Moore, QC, is considering an appeal. The Crown originally sought a sentence of more than five years' jail.

Mrs Sutcliffe, now 83, spoke about her ordeal after learning Fidow had been sentenced to home detention. The maximum penalty for aggravated robbery is 14 years' jail.

"It's ridiculous. I do feel let down by the system," she said.

The pensioner was walking to her car after a hair appointment when Fidow, then 18, ran at her and tackled her to the ground.

As Mrs Sutcliffe lay in agony with her wrist bone protruding, Fidow rolled her over and wrenched her bag off her, then fled.

Mrs Sutcliffe recalled: "He jumped me. He smashed me down. It all happened so quickly I don't know what I was thinking ... apart from, 'Why did he pick on me?"'

Fidow was on bail facing a burglary charge when he robbed her.

In June 2011, Fidow was charged with aggravated robbery. He appeared in court and was released on bail.

Fidow was arrested again in February last year for breaching supervision conditions and was warned and re-bailed.

He was also arrested in June after failing to appear in court. He was remanded in custody after evading police for several months, but released again in July on electronic bail.

Days later, after a scheduled court appearance, Fidow was caught burgling another house. This time he was remanded in custody, but in October, he was bailed again to Odyssey House, for alcohol abuse treatment.

Fidow eventually pleaded guilty to the robbery. Judge Phillippa Cunningham sentenced him to nine months' home detention, to be served at Odyssey House.

She also ordered Fidow to pay Mrs Sutcliffe $600 in reparation.

Judge Cunningham said Fidow appeared to be addicted to alcohol but had made "some progress" at Odyssey House.

The Crown sought a sentence of five years and six months, but Judge Cunningham gave discounts for Fidow's youth, guilty plea, "limited" criminal history, participation in rehabilitation and remorse.

"I accept that he is remorseful ... that Mr Fidow did not give any thought to what might happen to this elderly victim when he did what he did, but he is now aware of the consequences for her.

"It would be a pity to undo all the good work that has been done ... It is important that you be given the opportunity to serve a sentence which means that you will not be imprisoned."

Mrs Sutcliffe was disgusted at the sentence. "He should have gone to jail. It's ridiculous. I think he'll do it again. There's nothing to stop him, no deterrence. When he was arrested the first time, they should have kept him under lock and key."

In a victim impact statement, she said the robbery had had a "devastating" impact.

"I have lost my independence due to the injuries and the pain I am constantly in. I am most upset with the fact that my walking has suffered.

"I would like to see justice served on him for what he has done ... so he realised that by his foolish actions he has disabled me for life."

Mrs Sutcliffe wanted a harsher sentence for Fidow, to make sure he learned his lesson.

Mr Moore, the Crown's top lawyer in Auckland, would not discuss the specifics of the case but confirmed that an appeal against Fidow's sentence was being considered.

At sentencing, the Crown said home detention was not an appropriate option because Fidow had previous convictions and had continued to offend while on bail.

- NZ Herald

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