A young Northlander who punched and killed a grandfather during a road-rage incident has narrowly avoided prison, while other "one punch" offenders have spent time behind bars.

Patrick Dennis Tarawa, 22, was sentenced to home detention this morning for the manslaughter of 58-year-old Christopher Vujcich.

Vujcich's van had cut across an intersection in Kaikohe, causing Tarawa to brake suddenly to avoid a collision.

Tarawa followed Vujcich before an argument between the pair led to Tarawa throwing a punch which connected with Vujcich's head, causing him to fall backwards and land on a concrete footpath.

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He died the following day.

Today in the High Court at Whangārei, Justice Kit Toogood sentenced Tarawa to 10 months' home detention and 400 hours' community work after he pleaded guilty.

The judge said there were other "more realistic sentencing options" available to reduce any likelihood Tarawa would reoffend in a similar way.

"And I don't see in your character, that I know of it and in your past, any prospect that you'd behave violently in this way or in any other way in future," Justice Toogood said.

"Time on [electronic monitored] bail, remorse, capacity for rehab and your youth are factors that persuade me a non-custodial sentence can be imposed.

"I accept you'll live with unbearable regret for the rest of your life."

Christopher Vujcich was killed by Patrick Tarawa after a road-rage incident. Photo / Supplied
Christopher Vujcich was killed by Patrick Tarawa after a road-rage incident. Photo / Supplied

The Court of Appeal has ruled in previous judgments that the appropriate starting point in a "single punch" case is about three to four years' imprisonment.

However, the starting point may be increased where culpability is higher depending on the offender's intention and the nature of the violence used.

There is also no single tariff or guideline case for manslaughter, which reflects the many different circumstances which may lead to a manslaughter charge.

Case law researched by the Herald shows similar one punch cases have flirted with home detention but eventually resulted in prison terms.

In 2016, teenager Tyrone Palmer was sentenced to 22 months' imprisonment for the manslaughter of 40-year-old Matthew Coley.

Palmer, then 16, "blindsided" and punched Coley to the head, who then fell back onto a store window and to the pavement of an Invercargill street.

Palmer ran from the scene and told someone he had just "king hit" someone.

The judge gave Palmer deductions in his sentence for youth, previous good character, remorse and his guilty plea.

Grenville McFarland was jailed for two years and four months. Photo / NZ Herald
Grenville McFarland was jailed for two years and four months. Photo / NZ Herald

Palmer's lawyer, Hugo Young, advocated for a non-custodial sentence but Justice Nicholas Davidson did "not consider home detention is appropriate".

"This was not a fight that went wrong. As simply as I can put it, this was a wanton act of violence to a defenceless man and this conduct must be deterred and denounced," the judge said.

"The message must go out to young people and to all who are involved in the street or situations such as this, that a strike to the head can cause death, and imprisonment is a likely outcome."

Palmer appealed his sentence, still seeking a term of home detention, but the Court of Appeal upheld the prison stint.

"Offending of this kind is far too common," the court ruled.

In 2014, former Navy sailor Grenville David McFarland was jailed for two years and four months after punching trainee teacher Tarun Asthana, 25, outside a McDonald's in central Auckland in November 2013.

Asthana suffered a fatal head injury when his head hit that pavement.

Tarun Asthana died after being punched in downtown Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Tarun Asthana died after being punched in downtown Auckland. Photo / Supplied

McFarland's lawyer, Ron Mansfield, argued for his then 27-year-old client to be sentenced to home detention for what he described as an "unintended tragedy".

The Crown, however, argued that a non-custodial sentence would not be sufficient to deter others.

Justice Pamela Andrews took into account McFarland's lack of relevant convictions, the support of his family and the Navy, his full engagement in the restorative justice process, remorse, a willingness to educate others about violence and offering to donate to a charity.

But she reached an end sentence of two years four months' imprisonment – above the two year threshold for home detention.

"You punched a man with sufficient force that he fell backwards on to the ground and he was unable to break his fall. You did not check to see if he were injured, and you did nothing to assist him."

Taele Faletolu was sentenced to two years and nine months' imprisonment. Photo / NZ Herald
Taele Faletolu was sentenced to two years and nine months' imprisonment. Photo / NZ Herald

Also in 2014, then 20-year-old Taele Victor Faletolu was sentenced to two years nine months' imprisonment after he ran at a young Christchurch father-of-two outside a fundraising dance and kneed him in the head.

Utupo Waterhouse, 20, fell to the ground and hit his head, dying in hospital a week later.

"The level of violence used was significant," Justice Rachel Dunningham said.

"In terms of any mitigating factors of the offending I am not satisfied that there are any."

Deductions for Faletolu's sentence, however, were taken for his guilty plea to manslaughter, youth, remorse, previous good and reparations.

Faletolu had also asked for a sentence of home detention.