A Whangārei District Court judge came good on his promise to send those who fail to complete their community work to prison, jailing an Otangarei man after he missed 19 appointments and did not finish the court-ordered sentence.
Judge Greg Davis fired a warning shot in court last week, saying he would not tolerate breaches of community work and jail was the only option for those who flouted their court-ordered sentence.
When Eru Heta fronted the court yesterday on a charge of breaching community work and entered a guilty plea, he was remanded in jail until November 21 when he would be sentenced on the charge.
The result angered a woman, believed to be his partner, sitting in the public gallery who did the fingers at Judge Davis, who immediately ordered she be taken into custody.
A court security officer ushered the woman towards the cells below the courthouse as she yelled out "who is going to look after my stepson now?".
It was revealed 30-year-old Heta had previously appeared in court on August 5 before Judge Robert Ronayne, who had noted on the court file he had a "meaningful conversation" with Heta. Heta had "promised" he would complete his 66.5 outstanding hours.
Also noted on file was if the hours were completed by his next court date, Heta would be convicted and discharged. But if Heta failed he would be sent to jail.
Judge Davis wanted to know how many appointments Heta had not made with the Department of Corrections and a quick check of a computer system accessed in court showed 19 missed appointments. It also showed he had only done 26 hours of the 66.5 he promised to complete.
"You were sentenced to community work and like a lot of other people you can't be bothered doing it," Judge Davis said.
"The message has to get out there if you are sentenced to community work and you don't complete that sentence, you can be sentenced to jail."
Judge Davis said Heta was a man who knew the system given that his record showed convictions for failing to answer court bail, breach of home detention, breach of community work and breach of supervision, dating back to 2012.
"I don't see any other reason why you should not got to jail. A term of imprisonment is imminent, let's just get on with it."
Lawyer Wiremu Puriri said Heta had turned up at probation services and on three Saturdays it had been cancelled because of a lack of staff. However, another check on the in-court computer showed the claim was incorrect.
Puriri said Heta had been recovering from methamphetamine use and was seeking counselling for it. The return of two of his children from Australia a couple of months ago had also "side-tracked" him from doing his community work.
The woman, who was six months pregnant, appeared again after four hours in the courthouse cells, acknowledged her bad behaviour and apologised to Judge Davis.
"I'm sorry, I just want to go home to my kids," she said from the dock.
Judge Davis said in his almost 10 years as a judge had never remanded anyone for contempt of court.
"This is not the way the court conducts itself. If you let it get into an argument or a slanging match where do you draw the line and that's the point that needs to be remembered by everyone here. I accept your apology," Judge Davis said.