A young woman responsible for a "crime wave" across Auckland and Northland argues one of her victim's accounts of being assaulted, kidnapped and bundled into a car boot was prejudicial to her case.
Lenora Mahanga, 20, was the eldest of a group of five - the youngest just 13 - who kidnapped two young women from central Auckland's Bowen Ave on May 3.
The terrifying ordeal ended some three hours later and 52km away in the Bombay Hills when police found the hostages injured and lying in a wrecked car after it had crashed off a bridge.
After her arrest and guilty pleas, Mahanga was sentenced in September by Judge Brooke Gibson in the Auckland District Court to a total of six years seven months' imprisonment on several charges, including kidnapping.
The judge said it may be many years before the public is safe from Mahanga.
"I would be surprised if you didn't constitute a risk to the public even after you have completed your sentence," he said.
However, today Mahanga's counsel Asishna Prasad argued Judge Gibson's starting point for sentence was manifestly excessive after "parts of [a] victim impact statement was prejudicial".
It contained facts which went beyond the agreed summary of facts, Prasad said, and argued the starting point should've been calculated at four years.
"I was terrified and I feared for my life," one of the victims told the court during Mahanga's sentencing.
"I felt like there was no escape ... I was forced to accept that I might die and my chances of survival felt very slim."
Justice Simon Moore, who heard the appeal today in the High Court at Auckland, said victim impact statements will frequently contain material which goes beyond what is in a police summary.
Another point of appeal for Prasad was that Judge Gibson did not give enough credit for Mahanga's guilty pleas.
Justice Moore reserved his decision.
'Mini crime wave'
At about 10pm on the night of the kidnapping, the two victims spotted the pack of young offenders attempting to break into their car near the University of Auckland.
One of the women yelled at the group, trying to scare them off, however, it only agitated a 15-year-old boy in the group.
He approached her and punched her in the face - dislocating her jaw - before landing five more blows as she lay on the ground.
Her friend tried to run for help but was tackled to the ground by the 14-year-old girl in the group.
The other of the group's young men, also just 15, then revealed a screwdriver and held it to one of the women's throats, threatening to stab them if they didn't surrender their car keys.
But the car didn't start at first, so the group wandered about the city centre for 90 minutes searching for another vehicle, all the while holding their victims captive and telling them if they screamed for help they would be killed.
Mahanga, meanwhile, laughed at the prisoners and slapped them across the face when she asked why they were too scared to attempt an escape.
The group stumbled upon a Mazda Demio in Parnell and bundled their two hostages into the boot of car.
Unaware of the kidnapping, a Counties Manukau Police unit saw the car travelling south in convoy with another vehicle and gave chase.
Both drivers refused to stop and the Mazda continued onto the Southern Motorway before exiting at Ramarama.
The pursuit ended dramatically when the stolen car was driven off the side of a bridge and down a five metre bank.
Police found the two injured victims still in the boot of the crashed car, while three of the kidnapping group were arrested at the scene. The police Eagle helicopter searched for the second vehicle and found it at a Manurewa property where the two other offenders were arrested.
The 13-year-old girl in the group was referred to Youth Aid, while the two 15-year-olds and the 14-year-old were placed before the Youth Court.
One of the victims said at sentencing she now suffers from nightmares and feels insecure walking the streets.
"I can no longer view the world as a safe comfortable place," she said. "I don't know what is going to make this right for me and I do not see any punishment that is going to change the effects this has had on me and my life.
"I would feel safer knowing that the offender is not on the streets. I dread the day that I may come face to face with them on the street."
Also at sentencing, Crown prosecutor Benjamin Mugisho told the court Mahanga's excuse for the kidnapping was the group needed transport for the night.
Judge Gibson said if the car had not crashed he feared a far more serious outcome would have occurred.
"How you could treat people like that is simply beyond me," he told Mahanga.
Her "mini crime wave", as Judge Gibson called it, began in Whangārei and included stealing her aunt's car while drunk before crashing it into a power box - causing a power cut to part of the Northland city.
Granted bail over the incident, she was arrested in Manukau trying to steal a car.
Again she was granted bail but went on to breach her bail conditions six times.
In October last year she and another group of youths, the driver just 12 years old, stole petrol from a service station and demanded a handbag from a young woman on the side of the road.
She was again granted bail before police caught her stealing another car.
Mahanga was also charged with wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice for giving police false details.