Sentencing of a Whangarei man who led police on a 54km high-speed chase has been put off while he completes a detox programme and "addresses his demons".

Disqualified driver Kepa Kopa, 25, was arrested on August 10 after refusing to stop for police, instead leading them on a chase on rural roads from Whangarei to Hikurangi.

He was charged with dangerous driving, failing to stop and driving while forbidden. He also faces two charges of male assaults female relating to a domestic incident last December.

Kopa earlier pleaded guilty to all charges and had been due to be sentenced in the Matariki Court at Kaikohe earlier this month.


However, because Kopa was only three weeks into a 28-week Ngati Hine Health Trust residential drug and alcohol detox programme, Judge Greg Davis adjourned sentencing until December 9.

Judge Davis told the court it was an auspicious day in New Zealand legal history because it was the first time a full day had been dedicated to the Matariki Court. Matariki hearings had been held before at Kaikohe, where the new system for Maori offenders is being trialled, but always between ordinary district court hearings.

The Matariki Court was established in 2011 by the late Chief District Court Judge Russell Johnson in a bid to counter high imprisonment rates among young Maori. It allows people other than lawyers - such as whanau, hapu, community groups and victims - to have a say in court and help find ways to stop the offender returning to crime.

Unlike the usual district court process, most rehabilitation takes place before sentencing rather than after. One of its aims is to identify what triggers a person to commit crime (the "drivers of offending") and help the offender learn to deal with those influences.

During Kopa's Matariki hearing the courtroom was rearranged so everyone - police, lawyers, offender, family, social workers and victim - sat in a semicircle facing the judge.

Kopa was sentenced to five years' jail for aggravated robbery in 2008 - and sending him back to jail would do little to help him, his family or society in the long term.

"We are better off as a society with you addressing the drivers of your behaviour and addressing your demons ... We've chucked you in jail every other time you've got in trouble and it hasn't worked," Judge Davis said.

The signs from Kopa's rehab course were promising - social workers said he was conducting himself positively and "embracing his Ngatihinetanga" - but with 25 of the 28 weeks to go, it was too early to judge its success.