Man's assault conviction, sentence quashed

In 2013, Robert William Witehira was found guilty by a jury in Hamilton District Court. However, Mr Witehira's lawyer had his conviction overturned in the Court of Appeal.
In 2013, Robert William Witehira was found guilty by a jury in Hamilton District Court. However, Mr Witehira's lawyer had his conviction overturned in the Court of Appeal.

A man convicted of running down his partner with a car in Hamilton has had his conviction and sentence quashed.

In 2013, Robert William Witehira was found guilty by a jury in Hamilton District Court of assaulting his former partner with his car and was sentenced to nine months supervision and 80 hours of community work.

However, Mr Witehira's lawyer had his conviction overturned in the Court of Appeal after arguing his counsel in 2013 had essentially deprived Mr Witehira of a proper defence, leading to a miscarriage of justice.

He also said the judge in 2013 failed to take into account time Mr Witehira had already spent in custody and under electronically monitored bail.

In 2010, Mr Witehira was alleged to have tried to side-swipe his former partner's car while she and her two children were inside it, driving her off the road.

His former partner also said he had engaged in stalking and threatening behaviour after their six-month relationship ended.

After initially denying the charges, Mr Witehira pleaded guilty to one charge of assault with a weapon and one of reckless driving.

There was no real prospect of imprisonment, in the court's view, but Mr Witehira was led to believe that there was and that he rushed into changing his plea to one of guilty out of fear of going to prison.

The court held that Mr Witehira's guilty pleas were entered without a proper understanding of whether imprisonment was ever a prospect in the event of a conviction.

The Court of Appeal determined that the guilty pleas should be vacated and the convictions quashed.

- NZ Herald

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