A man who choked his partner laughed at her when she thought she was about to have an asthma attack.

Jonathan Lee Saunders, 33, was in a caravan in Whanganui with his girlfriend of three months on July 22, the Whanganui District Court heard on Tuesday.

The victim was holding a small heater, because it was a cold day, and Saunders launched himself at her, grabbing the heater.

He then grabbed the victim by the throat and held her down on the bed.

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Police prosecutor Sergeant Rachel Willemsen told the court the victim struggled to breathe, and felt an asthma attack coming on.

She asked Saunders for her inhaler, but he laughed at her and threw the inhaler in her direction. It fell into two pieces and went under the bed.

The victim began screaming, so Saunders quickly retrieved the inhaler, Ms Willemsen said.

Later, when the victim went outside with a phone, Saunders grabbed her in a bear hug from behind and tried to take the phone.

He pleaded guilty in court to assault with intent to injure.

Defence lawyer Stephanie Burlace said there had been no violence in the relationship before the offending.

She said Saunders had "really no offending to speak of", saying his last conviction was 14 years ago.

"It's a relationship that's anticipated to continue," she said.

"This isn't an ongoing problem in that relationship."

Judge David Cameron sentenced Saunders to 40 hours of community work and nine months of supervision.