A young man who potentially faced a lengthy prison term without parole for a violent attack on his sleeping partner was instead ordered to serve a shorter sentence today after a judge noted he claimed to have been raised by the Mongrel Mob, normalising his perceptions of violence.
Zacquirin Tikena-Stuchbery, 22, was facing his third strike following a November 2020 beating that left the victim with eyes that were swollen shut for days and a broken eye socket that permanently altered her appearance.
He pleaded guilty in the High Court at Auckland last June to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily injury, which carries a maximum possible sentence of 14 years' prison.
Under the three-strikes regime, which remains in place although the Government has taken steps to rescind it, Justice Paul Davison needed today to first consider a maximum sentence without parole.
Ultimately, though, he decided a sentence without parole would be "manifestly unjust" and a 14-year sentence, even with the possibility of parole, would be so "disproportionately severe and crushing" as to shock the conscience of New Zealand.
He instead ordered a sentence of five years and two months' prison, with a minimum term of imprisonment before eligibility for parole equalling half the sentence - two years and seven months.
Tikena-Stuchbery was 20 when he was arrested for beating his partner two times in two days, but it wasn't the first time and authorities allege it wouldn't be the last. His first strike was for attacking the same woman two years earlier, while the second strike was for participating in the beating and robbery of a man outside a bar.
Since his arrest for the crime he was sentenced for today, he has also been accused of attacking his partner again while she was pregnant. That charge, however, remains pending.
He was sentenced today for lashing out at the woman on November 27, 2020, after their home was burgled and he blamed her for not being home to prevent it. The following evening, she fell asleep as he played games on her phone and she woke up to what the judge described as a prolonged, "violent and brutal" beating prompted by jealousy over a text from another man who had commented on her looks.
"The complainant begged you to stop the assault and call for an ambulance," Justice Davison said, noting that the defendant only agreed to medical attention if his victim promised to lie about the cause of the injuries.
"The attack was vicious and extremely violent," the judge said, adding that the victim has since expressed forgiveness but that doesn't mitigate the offending.
The defendant was serving a sentence of home detention for his robbery conviction when the third strike offence took place, the judge said, describing it as "remarkable that all three of [his] strike offences occurred within three years".
But the judge also noted psychological and cultural reports prepared for the sentencing that noted Tikena-Stuchbery grew up in an environment of gangs, violence, alcohol and drugs. His father, a Mongrel Mob member, was sent to prison when he was a child and Tikena-Stuchbery described his early days as being raised by the gang.
He and his mother would face frequent physical abuse, including holding his hands to the stove, the reports noted.
"This frequent behaviour was normalised for you," Justice Davison said, pointing out that the defendant's "background of abuse and deprivation" also included drinking at age 9 and meth use at 16.
There's little doubt, the judge said, the violence Tikena-Stuchbery witnessed as a child has a causal link to his violent offending as an adult.
While he is deemed a high risk of reoffending and there is a clear risk to the community, the judge said a shorter sentence would still allow him plenty of time to enrol in rehabilitative programmes while in prison. Justice Davison encouraged him to take advantage of the opportunity.
"It will take an enormous effort on your part to break away from the negative influences...and forge a life for yourself that's worthwhile and fulfilling," he said. "The first step is taking full responsibility for your actions."
It was a sentiment shared by the victim.
"I want him to work through his issues so when he gets out of prison he can have a relationship with his daughter," she said after describing the pain and mental turmoil he caused.