Hitch-hiker attacker gets home detention

By Sandra Conchie of the Bay of Plenty Times -
File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A motorist who molested a female hitch-hiker he picked up on Tauranga Harbour Bridge has been sentenced to nine months home detention and ordered to pay his victim $1000.

Name suppression has lapsed for Sasa Tukuafu, 23, who was sentenced in Tauranga District Court yesterday after earlier pleading guilty to a charge of indecent assault of a female aged over 16.

Tukuafu picked up the victim, who had been flagging down passing motorists on the bridge in the early hours of last July 24.

The victim gave Tukuafu directions to her home but he took her elsewhere, pulled over and assaulted her.

The victim began crying and told her abuser to stop, which he did temporarily.

However, after turning the car around, he again stopped the car and intensified his attack.

When the victim told Tukuafu to stop the assault, he did so and drove her to the end of her road.

Tukuafu, a first-time offender, was caught after his wallet fell from the car and the victim took it to the police.

The Crown did not oppose a home detention sentence and Tukuafu's lawyer Tony Rickard-Simms urged Judge Thomas Ingram to impose such a sentence.

Judge Ingram said: "The seriousness of this assault should not be belittled, and must have been terribly frightening for the victim and a very difficult thing for any young woman to face.

"There may well be some lasting effects for the victim, particularly her ability to trust other men because of what you have done," the judge told Tukuafu.

However, Judge Ingram said having regard to Tukuafu's previous otherwise unblemished record, his remorse, offer to pay $1000 emotional harm to the victim and being assessed a low risk of further offending, he was satisfied the most appropriate sanction was home detention.

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