A Coromandel man’s “deep remorse” along with forgiveness by his whānau has helped him avoid a mandatory life sentence after a jury found him guilty of the murder of his brother.
A jury found Joey Richards guilty of murdering his brother, Guy Richards, after a week-long trial in the High Court at Hamilton in May this year.
The day before Guy’s death the pair, along with the rest of the whānau, farewelled their mother at her tangi on March 18 last year at Manaia Marae on the Coromandel.
Many socialised at Joey’s Manaia home and while Guy went home that night, Joey continued drinking and smoking methamphetamine until the next day.
Guy returned the following morning and the pair began arguing as Joey felt his brother hadn’t helped enough.
What started as pushing each other turned into a fight that lasted around five minutes before a sliding door was broken.
Guy and two others left, driving home which was a couple of minutes away, however, Joey followed in his vehicle driving erratically until pulling up behind his brother’s vehicle in the driveway.
The pair began fighting and after about a minute Joey was seen punching his brother in an “uppercut” motion to the abdomen.
Guy clutched his stomach and turned to walk back up the driveway before collapsing and soon after dying of his injuries.
Joey, 46, was then heard saying “Get up my bro, get up my bro” before getting in his car speeding away, crashing off a cliff and suffering serious injuries.
He was back before Justice Kiri Tahana for sentencing today with Crown prosecutor Rebecca Guthrie arguing for life imprisonment, while defence counsel Christopher Stephenson pushed for a finite sentence with a minimum non-parole period of six years.
A person convicted of murder is jailed for life unless a judge deems it manifestly unjust after weighing up all the circumstances.
Guthrie said it was tragic for the Richards whānau and the wider Manaia community.
“And tragic because it was completely avoidable.”
Guthrie pointed out Joey chose to drive after his brother and somewhere along the way grabbed a knife, from either his truck or home, and used it to plunge into his brother.
‘He feels unworthy of forgiveness’
Stephenson said his client was grief-stricken from his mother’s death, fuelled by alcohol and methamphetamine, and suffered serious injuries in the crash, and while Joey admitted behaving badly and being the initial aggressor it was clear that Guy initiated the violence in the driveway.
It would also remain unknown where the knife came from as Joey had no recollection of events from that morning.
What was profound, was the level of remorse and grief that Joey had continued to go through and show, Stephenson said.
“That sense of the horror of his actions, at the loss of his much-loved brother, his deep and genuine remorse really does distinguish this case... it does make this case in its own right exceptional.
“What happened after these tragic events, especially with the hui and restorative justice meetings was incredibly powerful in terms of Joey Richards’ sorrow... that he must atone for what he’s done... and it’s something he still struggles to believe.
“He feels unworthy of forgiveness.”
However, Justice Tahana noted that his whānau had forgiven him even though Guy’s children were still struggling with their father’s loss.
She accepted Joey acted with reckless intent that morning and ruled out there was any pre-meditation involved.
He had also been through neglect and violence while growing up and suffered from alcohol and substance abuse.
Primarily, his whānau did not want to see him jailed for life.
“They have forgiven you,” she told him. “They are the community that has been hurt and the community that you will return to.”
While his offending was serious, she agreed to hand down a finite sentence and jailed Joey Richards for 12 years with a minimum non-parole period of seven years.
He was also disqualified from driving on a charge of dangerous driving. Justice Tahana also dismissed his outstanding fines.
Belinda Feek is an Open Justice reporter based in Waikato. She has worked at NZME for eight years and been a journalist for 19.