Speaking to police after a drunken crime spree, Sean Andrew Roche told them the Holy Spirit had commanded him to commit the violent offences.

The 28-year-old was among the hundreds of New Zealanders deported from Australia last year under tough new immigration laws.

He spoke to the Otago Daily Times in November about his experience in Australian detention centres and how he was determined to begin a more productive life in Dunedin.

Roche had been working with the Salvation Army and was keen to become a counsellor to guide young people tempted to follow his path.

Advertisement

During the interview, he was frank and honest about his heavy methamphetamine use when he lived in Australia.

There were gangs, motorbikes and weapons, Roche said.

"It's a cool place to be a criminal - it's like playing Grand Theft Auto in real life."

His return to New Zealand came with a commitment to change, but his lawyer, Meg Scally, said it all went wrong on December 10.

And before his story of redemption could be published, he was back behind bars.

Roche, who had not consumed alcohol for two years, had a drinking session with Jeremy Phillip Clark, 37.

"He can't explain why," Scally said.

"He was grossly intoxicated and doesn't have significant recollection of what occurred."

But the events of that night will be etched into the victims' minds for some time, the court heard.

Roche and Clark walked along Great King St and up a driveway leading to apartments.

The residents at one house called out, hearing the men at their front door.

Roche responded by yelling abuse and smashing their bedroom window with a broom he had picked up.

Hoping to get a description of the defendants, the victim left his apartment with a golf club for protection.

Seeing him, Roche rushed the man and whacked him with the broom.

Clark helped his co-defendant pin the victim to a fence and they wrestled the golf club off him, before punching him and telling him he was going to die.

After he fled indoors, they smashed a hole in the wooden front door then continued down Great King St.

Minutes later, they followed another man inside a second apartment complex.

When he asked the duo what they were doing, they cornered him in a stairwell.

They asked the victim for a ride home and, when he refused, Clark pulled him by the T-shirt and punched him twice in the face. Roche demanded the man's car keys and cellphone while his mate punched the victim three more times.

They left in the stolen Toyota Corona, tossing out a cellphone and wallet on their way to Pine Hill.

A police dog unit tracked the defendants, but Roche was not willing to go quietly.

He continually lunged at the dog, the court heard, and refused a blood-alcohol test during which he was aggressive with officers.

Clark refused to make a statement but Roche - who told the ODT he had found God while incarcerated - blamed his actions on the Holy Spirit.

Scally said her client accepted responsibility for the slew of offences, the most serious of which was aggravated robbery.

But she outlined a background which included working opposite the CTV building after the Christchurch earthquake.

Roche was involved in the recovery efforts that followed its collapse and had subsequently used alcohol to block out the memories, Scally said.

Judge Michael Crosbie said both men were under the umbrella of Probation at the time of the offending, which aggravated their situation.

While Clark had a more extensive criminal record - including 16 convictions for violence - Roche faced more charges from the night in question.

The judge said the victims, particularly the couple from the first incident, had been rocked by their ordeals.

"[The victim's] partner says she is shaken to her core," he said.

Though the defendants were resigned to prison terms, they each said they were keen to help others.

Clark was in talks with Corrections about setting up an Alcoholics Anonymous group behind bars, while Roche was adamant he still wanted to train as a counsellor.

Clark was jailed for three years three months, his co-defendant for three years four months, and they were each ordered to pay $945 reparation.

Roche was also banned from driving for 18 months.