Jail for man involved in Koutu gang brawl

By Katie Holland

A Rotorua judge said he was "putting a stake in the ground" by jailing a man involved in a gang-related brawl outside a child's first birthday party.

In the Rotorua District Court this week Judge Chris McGuire sentenced 21-year-old Piki Tane Riki to four months in prison for his part in the Koutu Rd street fight in September.

Riki had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge of possessing an offensive weapon, a piece of wood, and one charge of intentionally damaging a motor vehicle. He was the first of the six adults charged over the incident to be sentenced. One other has pleaded guilty.

In sentencing, Judge McGuire said according to the summary of facts, a man with Mongrel Mob connections walked to a nearby shop from the Koutu Rd house where the child's party was held.

There was an exchange between him and the occupants of a passing car, which contained men with Black Power connections. Riki was in the car, although it was noted he was not a gang member.

A rock was thrown through the rear window of the car which was then driven to the house for a confrontation.

Riki collected wood from the side of the road for himself and his alleged co-offenders to use.

The judge said at least one person at the house was injured while trying to calm down the situation and at some point Riki and others used the wood to damage a vehicle at the property.

Riki's foot was then run over as the car attempted to reverse out of the driveway.

Judge McGuire said his abiding concern about the incident was that it happened in front of young children. He referred to one of the witness victim impact statements, which said "kids and adults were running and screaming and were really terrified". He acknowledged Riki had not been violent towards any other person but said his actions had aided, abetted and encouraged the violence.

"For what it's worth, I'm putting a stake in the ground in this community to the extent I am able, and the other judges in Rotorua. It seems to me that those who gratuitously expose very young children to violence can expect to go to jail for it.

"Apart from anything else, it shows massive arrogance that children are somehow less worthy to live a peaceful existence than it is for them to carry out their petty vendettas, gang on gang."

The judge implored Riki, who had completed a sports course, was into hunting and fishing, played U21 rugby for Waikite and had helped at a holiday programme, not to join a gang.

"You have too many positive things going for you."

He gave Riki credit for his early guilty plea and his comments when interviewed that he wished it hadn't happened.

On release, Riki will be subject to six months' release conditions including a Tikanga Maori programme and appropriate drug and alcohol counselling.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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