A man who beat his friend to death with a cricket bat and dumped his body out of town has avoided a sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
The murder of 45-year-old Brent Andrew Bacon on February 4, 2019, represented John Kenneth Collins' second strike under the three-strikes legislation (his first came for indecent assault in 2016) but Justice Jan-Marie Doogue, before the High Court at Dunedin today, ruled a whole-of-life term would be grossly disproportionate.
The 39-year-old was jailed for life with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.
Justice Doogue said the murder was "brutal" and the decision to dispose of the body on a back road represented a "continuing course of callous conduct".
In March, a jury took less than an hour to return a unanimous verdict on the murder charge, after Collins had pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking the victim's vehicle and interfering with human remains.
The judge said Collins "stole the rest of [Bacon's] life from him" and betrayed the victim's family, who had tried to support the defendant and his wife.
"They all have holes in their heart that will never be mended," she said.
Bacon's sister – his only sibling - Lia Bezett spoke the pain of her loss.
"I'm tormented daily by what you did; the terror and pain Brent would've experienced at your hands," she said.
"[Collins'] callous, brutal actions tore my family and world apart."
Bezett described her brother as an "understanding father, supportive brother, hard worker, loyal friend, rough-housing uncle".
Bacon's upbeat attitude was both a blessing and a curse.
"He saw the best in everyone and disregarded their shadows and their past," she said.
"He cared about you, you were his friend and he stood by you when you were down. You failed him, you failed your children, his children, your family, our family and our community."