When police knocked on a father’s door with a warrant to take his young daughter from him, he got angry, clenched his fists and made it clear he wasn’t going to hand her over without a fight.
“Let’s go, you’re not taking my f****** daughter, over my dead body,” the 32-year-old told the two officers who had arrived at his Whanganui address on September 24 last year.
The warrant, which enforced an existing parenting order that stated the 4-year-old was to be in the care of her mother, was issued by the Family Court in Hāwera the previous day.
At the outset of the officers’ arrival, the girl’s father told them he wanted to close his front door so he could think about what was unfolding but the officers warned against it, the Whanganui District Court heard on Thursday.
When one of the officers attempted to negotiate with him, he repeated he was not going to allow his daughter to be taken.
Then he launched an attack on the pair.
He punched the sergeant, striking him on the top of his head and opening a 50mm gash, which began to bleed excessively.
A female constable tried to intervene but the man advanced down the steps from his front door, continuing to throw punches at the sergeant.
As the sergeant retreated, his colleague got behind the father, who was still swinging punches at the sergeant’s head, and attempted to stop him by wrapping her arms around his.
The offender then used his body weight to launch himself backward, slamming the constable into the garage wall with enough force to smash the exterior cladding.
He then turned and used both arms to lift the constable off the ground and throw her into the concrete footpath and doorstep.
She landed on her elbow and despite trying to use her hands to protect herself, her attacker landed a blow to the back of her head while she was on the ground, knocking off her cap and a stud earring from her ear.
The sergeant yelled “leave her alone” before pepper spraying the father. But it had little effect and the man continued to rain blows upon the sergeant, knocking him to the ground.
The offender then fled the scene. He was later found nearby and arrested without further incident.
Four staples were needed to close the gash to the sergeant’s head and he suffered bruising and grazes to both arms, while his female colleague sustained swelling and pain to the back of her head and grazes to her elbows.
In court, the father appeared before Judge Justin Marinovich for sentencing on two charges of aggravated injuring, which carried a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment.
Defence lawyer Anna Brosnahan said the man’s whānau were in court to support him.
Brosnahan said the defendant, who presented three letters of apology to the court, had shown remorse as well as insight into his offending, had been willing to engage in restorative justice, and had $1000 to offer as emotional harm reparation.
She sought a sentence of home detention.
Crown prosecutor Jack Liu agreed the defendant was entitled to a discount for his remorse, the offer of an emotional harm payment and letters of apology.
Judge Marinovich said both officers suffered injuries which had affected their work as well as their personal lives and families.
“No police officer turns up to their job each morning expecting to be assaulted in the manner you assaulted them.”
He detailed how the defendant had expressed sorrow for the violence he inflicted on the officers and accepted his remorse as genuine.
“The work that you are doing to try and better yourself no doubt will continue.”
After allowing discounts for his guilty plea, remorse, personal factors and the steps he had taken to rehabilitate himself, Judge Marinovich imposed a sentence of 28 months’ imprisonment and ordered the defendant to pay $1000 in emotional harm reparation.
As he was taken away to begin his sentence, a supporter in the public gallery called out “love you brother” and punched his chest.
Leighton Keith joined NZME as an Open Justice reporter based in Whanganui in 2022. He’s been a journalist for 20 years covering a variety of topics and rounds.