Funeral fracas left innocent bystander unconscious

By Greymouth Star staff

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A fracas at a Franz Josef Glacier funeral wake left one innocent bystander unconscious and his brother nursing a bruised head, the Greymouth District Court heard yesterday.

Tauranga man, Benjamin James Smith, 26, was ordered to pay each of his victims $500 emotional harm payments and sentenced to 80 hours' community work after he admitted the two assaults.

Police prosecutor Steven Greer said Smith, and his brother, were in an angry mood at the Monsoon Bar at 1.30am on February 3.

Two South Westland locals were sitting on a sofa when Benjamin Smith went over, kicked one man in the leg and then, pinning his head back with one hand, delivered three blows, knocking him unconscious.

The victim's brother tried to pull him away but Smith broke free and delivered five or six more blows to the unconscious man.

Meanwhile, Smith's brother grabbed the victim's brother, and they were wrestling on the floor when Smith punched the other local twice on the back of the head.

Lawyer Eymard Bradley said the Smiths had been visiting South Westland for a funeral and were upset because there was "bad blood" between factions of the family. Something said at the hotel set him off, but he accepted that the two victims were innocent bystanders who did not deserve to be attacked.

Smith was ashamed of his actions and was prepared to pay compensation.

Judge Robert Murfitt said he had a hard time reconciling the positive references supplied by Smith with his previous history, "which suggests that you are strongly inclined to criminal behaviour".

However, the judge also noted that he had been offence-free since 2007 so the Franz Josef offending might have been an "isolated relapse".

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