Rob Kidd is a NZME. News Service court reporter based in Auckland.

Nephew of Cook Islands' Prime Minister jailed over intimate visual recordings

Tuakeu Puna, the nephew of the Cook Islands' Prime Minister, was jailed for 20 months. Photo / Rob Kidd
Tuakeu Puna, the nephew of the Cook Islands' Prime Minister, was jailed for 20 months. Photo / Rob Kidd

A relative of the Cook Islands' Prime Minister has been jailed for trawling malls for young women and filming up their skirts.

Tuakeu Cecil Puna, who is the nephew of Henry Puna, was found guilty by a jury of eight counts of making intimate visual recordings, one of attempting to do so and 17 of possessing such recordings.

He is the second nephew of the Cook Islands' PM to appear in Manukau District Court in the last four months.

In January, Nga Puna became the first person to be arrested over his student loan debt, which had ballooned to $130,000. He was only allowed to leave the country after making a "significant repayment" and a brief court appearance.

Judge David McNaughton said Tuakeu Puna's offending, which spanned more than a year and dozens of victims, showed a "callous disregard for women in general".

He was jailed for 20 months today despite arguments from his lawyer Michael Meyrick for a home-detention sentence.

Puna, 40, would scour South Auckland malls looking for young attractive women, whom he found working in jewellery, lingerie and clothing stores.

He would turn up either first thing in the morning or just as the shops were closing so there were fewer witnesses and the court heard how he would even take his daughter at times to provide cover.

He was eventually caught in the act in Mitre 10.

"The woman turned around to see you right behind her, crouched down, holding your phone between her legs," Judge McNaughton said.

When police seized Puna's electronic devices they found he had edited some of the up-skirt videos.

They were slowed down when the women's genitalia were depicted and some were set to music.

Mr Meyrick argued they were not for his client's sexual gratification but were more about the "thrill of the chase".

"Why people do these things when it's freely available elsewhere, I'm not sure," he said.

But that was rubbished by the judge, who labelled the recordings as "sleazy and exploitative".

"They were essentially home-made porn movies without the explicit sexual element," he said.

The victims told the court they had become paranoid and felt violated since discovering they had been filmed without their knowledge or consent.

One said she was violently sick after giving evidence at trial, while another described the incidents as symptomatic of "rape culture".

It was also revealed in court today that Puna had been charged over similar offending in 2013 when he stalked a woman around a shopping mall for 40 minutes before putting his hand up her skirt.

He denied the charge but was found guilty at trial after CCTV footage showed him groping the victim.

After a "glowing" pre-sentence report, Judge Anna Johns deemed him to be at low risk of reoffending and sentenced him to community detention.

"Clearly you were then and still are a high risk of further offending. You managed to deceive Probation and the judge on that occasion but not this time," Judge McNaughton said.

"As one of the victims pointed out: the public needs protection."

Puna continued to deny that indecent assault and claimed the material found on his electronic devices must have been left over from previous owners.

Crown prosecutor Zoe Hamill said some of the devices were encrypted and the defendant had refused to tell police the passwords.

She asked for the judge to make an order for destruction of the three phones, three hard drives, camera, laptop and USB drive, which he accordingly did.

Mr Meyrick signaled to the court that decision would be appealed as would be the convictions.

He said the appeal would focus on a pre-trial dispute.

- NZ Herald

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