A distraught mother screamed in fear as a man stole her car with her infant son asleep in the back, a court has heard.

Nokowaka Kinghazel, 25, of Taneatua, was sentenced to 18 months' jail when he appeared in the Whakatane District Court.

He had previously pleaded guilty to driving with excess breath alcohol, driving while disqualified, assaulting a police officer, unlawfully taking a motor vehicle and breaching community work.

The charges relate to an incident on May 9 when Kinghazel took a car containing a 16-month-old child from the driveway of a Taneatua home. Kinghazel had been drinking with a friend at a neighbouring house and took the car because he wanted to go home.


As he reversed out of the driveway, the car's owner ran out of the house screaming at him to stop but Kinghazel locked the doors so she could not gain access.

When he realised a baby was asleep in the backseat, he pulled over and gave the child to a pedestrian.

When police eventually caught Kinghazel he had a breath alcohol level of 663 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.

Defence lawyer Lisa Ebbers opposed a media application to photograph Kinghazel in the dock, claiming it would increase the number of death threats he received.

When the application was granted, she advised her client to turn and face the wall but was rebuked by Judge Louis Bidois who told Kinghazel to face forward.

Ms Ebbers said Kinghazel was remorseful and disappointed a restorative justice meeting with the victims did not go ahead because he was hopeful of apologising to the family of the baby.

"He acknowledges that he has issues with alcohol. This occurred after he has spent six month not drinking alcohol," she said.

Judge Bidois said the child's mother was distraught when she realised Kinghazel had taken her car with the baby in the back.

"Her mind was racing and she was frightened for her baby. She says that she knew you had been drinking and that you don't give a damn about anyone else.

"You no doubt thought that she was screaming at the fact that you were taking her car but she was screaming for her child."

Judge Bidois said Kinghazel was disqualified from driving at the time.

In addition to sending Kinghazel to jail, Judge Bidois also disqualified him from driving indefinitely.

As the sentence was handed down a woman ran towards the dock trying to attack Kinghazel while others in the public gallery yelled insults and threats.

The woman was escorted from the courtroom by security guards. Police helped escort the others from the courtroom, as they continued to yell abuse at Kinghazel.

- Whakatane Beacon