The High Court has reduced by six months a three-year jail term imposed on the driver of a stolen car who nearly ran over an off-duty police officer in Northland.

Daniel Manuel, 36, was sentenced by the Whangarei District Court in September after he pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including assault with a weapon (the stolen car), reckless driving, escaping from lawful custody and receiving stolen property.

Constable Ewen Cumming had to jump out of the way after Manuel ignored his requests to hand himself in and drove the car forward on Dargaville's Victoria St in February. Manuel appealed against his sentence in the High Court at Whangarei.

His lawyer, Darrell Hart, argued a starting point of 12 months on the lead charge of assault with a weapon would have been appropriate as Mr Cumming received only a glancing blow and the primary intention of Manuel was to escape rather than assault.


Sentencing Judge Robert Ronayne had set a starting point of three years for the offence.

Mr Hart said the offence took place in the middle of the day, the officer wasn't "vulnerable", the vehicle wasn't moving at a significant speed at the time of the impact, and that there was no evidence that anyone else was put in harm's way.

Crown solicitor Mike Smith submitted the starting point was appropriate as Judge Ronayne took into account the totality of the offending and, in particular, linked the offences to numerous aggravating factors of the offending.

Although the officer escaped injury, Mr Smith said the potential for more serious injury was real and considerable.

Justice Simon Moore - who heard the appeal - said although the offending was undoubtedly serious, a global starting point of three years was beyond the range available to the sentencing judge. The lead charge shouldn't have attracted a starting point of more than 18 months in jail, he ruled.

Justice Moore didn't accept that Mr Cumming was vulnerable in a manner that aggravated the offence. "The officer was vulnerable in the sense that he was alone and the weapon was a car but those factors are, in my view, inherent in the charge."