Man who assaulted schoolboy witnesses to be re-sentenced

By Jimmy Ellingham

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

The man who assaulted schoolboy witnesses to a drunken Auckland robbery, committed by two of Mana Party leader Hone Harawira's nephews, will be re-sentenced after the Court of Appeal today quashed a home detention term.

Wikatana Popata - who once assaulted Prime Minister John Key at Waitangi - was last year found guilty of two charges of assault and sentenced to six month's home detention for the 2011 incident.

At a trial in the Auckland District Court, Popata was acquitted on a count of aggravated robbery.

His friends, brothers Tohora Harawira and Enesi Taito, were given prison terms. The brothers beat up a man on Great North Rd in Avondale, robbing him of his iPod. Popata assaulted bystanders so they wouldn't tell police about what happened.

At Popata's sentencing it was said he approached three schoolboys who witnessed the attack and hit two of them across the face, telling them not to "nark".

In the Court of Appeal at Auckland, Popata's lawyer Louise Freyer said he was not present during the initial robbery and assault, and arrived on the scene shortly afterwards.

Mrs Freyer said at Popata's sentencing, Judge Nevin Dawson relied on a Crown summary prepared before the trial, rather than the evidence that came out at the trial. This meant Popata received a harsher sentence than he should have.

It was an unusual situation as Judge Graham Hubble oversaw the trial and then retired straight after, so Judge Dawson took over the sentencing.

Mrs Freyer said Popata should be re-sentenced, and the Court of Appeal judges, Justices Pamela Andrews, Patrick Keane and Lynton Stevens, agreed.

They quashed his sentence and sent the matter back to the district court for re-sentence on a date yet to be set.

Popata's home detention term was suspended after two weeks to allow his appeal to be heard.

In 2009 he was convicted for assaulting Mr Key outside Te Tii Marae by pulling his jacket and sentenced to 100 hours' community work.

A year later Popata led Ngati Kahu protesters in an occupation of a Far North District Council-owned reserve.

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