The parents of a 1-year old asleep in the back of a car stolen in Taneatua on Monday night were shaking with emotion when the man responsible appeared in Whakatane District Court today.
Nohowaka Kinghazel, 26, of Taneatua, pleaded guilty to driving with excess breath alcohol, driving while disqualified and unlawfully taking a motor vehicle as family and friends of the toddler sat in the public gallery glaring at him.
No plea was entered to a charge of assaulting a police officer.
The group of family and friends did not speak until the end of Kinghazel's appearance but, as he was leaving the dock, the mother of the toddler yelled; "take my baby you ****, you're not safe in jail" and "you're going to die ****."
She was in tears through most of the proceedings.
Three men who had, throughout Kinghazel's appearance, been shaking with rage, also yelled "you will get it," as he left the court.
Defence lawyer Lisa Ebbers told the court Kinghazel was extremely remorseful for what he had done and accepted full responsibility for his offending.
She said he had stopped drinking alcohol for a period of time and Monday's offending stemmed from a lapse on his behalf.
She said he hoped for a restorative justice conference so he would be able to apologise to the parents in person.
"This offending has inflamed the small community of Taneatua," Ms Ebbers told the court.
"As I understand it friends and family of the victims in the matter got together and formed a lynch mob to get the offender."
Police have said they will view footage of Kinghazel's arrest in relation to the assault charge and also indicated a charge of kidnapping was being looked at by Whakatane CIB.
Judge Peter Rollo told Kinghazel his offending had impacted severely on the parents of the child.
"For some reason you decided to take this car," Judge Rollo said. "The mother had stopped in to go and see someone or go and pick someone up and you have used the opportunity to take it. It would have been terrifying for the woman and for the child in the back.
"When you realised there was a child in the car, instead of taking the child back to the parents, you stopped near a pedestrian and gave the child to her and took off.
"You were arrested shortly after."
He told Kinghazel the parents would undoubtedly be feeling "very angry" about what he had done.
Judge Rollo urged the family to listen to what a restorative justice process was about.
He declined a bail application, which was opposed by police, and remanded Kinghazel in custody until July 6.