Key Points:

A jobless man has been jailed for 12 months for his part in racially abusing a 15-year-old foreign student - who was so intimidated he complied with a demand that he hand over his cellphone.

Karl Edgar Littlejohn, 25, was one of several people in a car in central Dunedin, on February 14 when the incident occurred and the victim handed over his $900 cellphone.

Littlejohn then removed and burned the SIM card.

He pleaded guilty in March to a charge of demanding with menaces.

Counsel Anne Stevens told the Dunedin District Court yesterday the type of ignorant racial abuse involved perhaps stemmed from the defendant's lack of education and his failure to realise the need for tolerance towards people from other countries.

Since the incident, Littlejohn had successfully completed a stopping violence programme. He had found it valuable and wanted to do another.

He had also completed a large amount of his outstanding community work and was prepared to do more.

He was paying his fines and had not incurred any new ones.

But Judge Ray Kean said Littlejohn had had his chance to prove himself on community-based sentences.

The type of conduct involved in the offending demanded a prison sentence. He accepted the defendant had settled down and had the support of his sister.

But the impact on the victim was obviously quite serious, given he had handed over his cellphone. He had been afraid and shocked by what happened in the middle of the day in Dunedin, which he thought was a safe city.

"You were intimidating and racist and this offence does you no credit at all," the judge said, sentencing Littlejohn to 12 months' jail, with an additional two months for breaching community work by failing to report to probation on May 25.

He granted leave for a home detention application but told the defendant he should not get his hopes up and ordered him to pay the $65 reparation for the SIM card.

Mrs Stevens said Littlejohn would appeal.