A man who killed a homeless man in Whangārei with a single punch has been sentenced to eight months' home detention for manslaughter.

Michael David Nepia, 26, was today sentenced in the High Court at Whangārei for the manslaughter of homeless man Edward Martin Townsend - also known as Eddie - in December, last year.

Nepia had earlier pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of the 52-year-old after the pair got into a confrontation over their dogs at the Te Mai shops, in Whangārei, about 6pm that night.

The police summary of facts said Townsend was seated outside Savoeuns Cafe at the shops about 6pm on December 17 that evening with his two dogs not on leashes. Nepia also had his two dogs on leashes and as he got near to where Townsend was their dogs started to growl at each other.

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Eddie Townsend, who died after an assault at the Te Mai Shops, Whangārei, in December, last year.
Eddie Townsend, who died after an assault at the Te Mai Shops, Whangārei, in December, last year.

Townsend stood up, realising there would be a fight between the dogs. As they began fighting he kicked Nepia's dogs in an effort to get them away from his dogs. As he did so Nepia told him to 'get your dogs.''

Nepia took offence to his dogs being kicked and threw one punch with his right fist hitting Townsend in the face. The force of the blow caused Townsend to fall backwards and hit the back of his head on the concrete footpath.

Nepia took his dogs and left.

It is unclear who raised the alarm but an ambulance arrived and St John staff treated Townsend on the side of the road. He was bleeding from the back of his head and was taken to Whangarei Hospital a short distance away where he was placed on life support.
Over the next four hours his condition deteriorated rapidly and at 1.37am on December 18 he died at the hospital.

Medical staff established he died from a severe brain bleed and had a fractured skull.
When police interviewed Nepia, who went to the Whangarei police station of his own accord, he admitted he "lost it" with the victim when his dogs were kicked.

Nepia explained it was a needless confrontation which could have been avoided if the victim had looked after his dogs.

At Nepia's sentencing today Justice Ian Gault said the death of Townsend was the result of a stupid, impulsive punch that has had tragic consequences.

Justice Gault initially gave a starting point for sentencing of 3 years and six months jail, but this was reduced to an end sentence of one year and five months once a the mitigating circumstances were taking into consideration. The just then converted that sentence to eight months home detention, saying a non-custodial sentence was the most appropriate.

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Flowers were placed at the Te Mai shops where a 52-year-old man known as
Flowers were placed at the Te Mai shops where a 52-year-old man known as "Eddie" was initially assaulted, then later died in hospital.

He said Nepia had been through a restorative justice conference with a member of Townsend's whanau and they did not want him to go to jail. Justice Gault said Nepia was also genuinely remorseful for the death and had committed to doing a Man Alive intensive anti-violence course. He was also committed to being a good father and partner.

He said Nepia's cultural circumstances, which included the negative effects of colonialism, were contributing factors that needed to be taken into consideration.

The judge said Home Detention was not an easy sentence, but would help Nepia rehabilitate.