Rotorua's plague of gang violence must stop, if it doesn't the city will face more tragedies, a judge has said.
Judge Phillip Cooper's words came as he jailed senior Mongrel Mob member George Alan Perham for five years and three months on Friday afternoon in the Rotorua District Court
Perham, 47, had earlier admitted a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to rival gang member Christopher Jolley on Old Taupo Rd last June 18.
The charge stemmed from an attack by Perham and fellow Mongrel Mob members on a van Jolley was in. He noted Perham had swung an axe so hard he'd sliced Jolley's leg through to the bone.
The court heard there was a long history of animosity between the Mongrel Mob and other gangs including Black Power to which Jolley belongs.
Perham's lawyer, Jonathan Temm, said three months before the Old Taupo Rd event Perham, his wife and young family had been surrounded by Black Power associates in Eat Streat where he'd been struck in the head with a machete.
Police had investigated but no charges were laid.
Temm described the events in Old Taupo Rd as "spontaneous" adding Perham now accepted that his involvement was a mistake. After hitting Jolley once he had again swung the axe but stopped mid swing before joining others in attacking their opponents' van.
"He realised he'd gone too far and left the scene," Temm said
He outlined other confrontations between the two men including a clash in Turner Drive, Western Heights, in December 2015.
He described Perham as something of enigma, a man who'd been with his partner for many years, had four young children with her and built up a successful firewood business.
"He uses it to give back to the community." Temm submitted, adding Perham had shown genuine remorse for his behaviour over the past decade and wanted to consign his violent tendencies to the past.
Crown solicitor Amanda Gordon told Judge Cooper there were a number of aggravating factors to be considered, including the level of violence involved.
Referring to the Eat Streat attack on Perham, she said he had not laid a complaint with police, nor had Jolley laid one against him relating to the axing of his leg, which came with such force a bone was shattered.
Describing the attack as unprovoked, she said Jolley had not been doing anything to rile Perham.
Jolley had declined to provide a victim impact statement.
She called for a sentence starting point of eight to nine years with a minimum period of imprisonment imposed, arguing Perham's offending needed to be met with a stern response to protect the Rotorua community.
Judge Cooper was addressed by Israel Hawkins, a cultural assessor for Maori offenders, who said Perham had missed out on connecting with his whakapapa (genealogy), tikanga (customs) and te reo in earlier years but had vowed to remedy this through programmes offered to him in jail.
Judge Cooper noted the pre-sentence report indicated Perham was someone with a high risk of reoffending, however it was in his favour that he ran a successful business and cared for his elderly mother.
"There is no doubt Rotorua has been plagued with violence between rival gangs, the Mongrel Mob and the Black Power, over recent years, unless that stops there are gong to be more tragedies."
He said Perham had seen a chance to inflict retribution on a rival gang member and had done so. He said he hoped giving Perham credit for his prospects of rehabilitation was not being over-optimistic.
"If you use your time in prison [wisely] the Parole Board will be impressed," he told Perham, saying if he did use it in a beneficial way on his release he could help put the lid on Rotorua's gang issues.
He declined to impose a minimum non-parole period.