A man who threatened a Government staffer - saying he was going to come to her office and smash her face in - has had an appeal against his conviction and sentence rejected.

In August last year Joshua Stephen Murdoch pleaded guilty to a charge of threatening to cause grievous bodily harm after a verbal assault on a Ministry of Social Development staffer.

Threats against MSD and other Government staff have been taken extremely seriously since Russell John Tully stormed into the Ashburton WINZ office in 2014 and gunned down two women, with a zero tolerance approach by authorities.

The Christchurch District Court heard that on May 25 last year Murdoch called the MSD to arrange emergency housing.


During the phone call Murdoch became verbally aggressive and started to shout at the woman.

"I'm gonna f**king come down there and smash your face in," he said.

"I'm gonna tear the place apart and rip your face off."

The woman was upset by the threats and made a complaint with police.

Murdoch was subsequently charged.

He later admitted the offending and was sentenced to nine months' supervision.

However Murdoch then appealed both the conviction and sentence in the High Court on the basis that "he felt pressured to plead guilty by his lawyer and the District Court judge who presided over his case.

In the District Court, Murdoch's lawyer withdrew from the case, saying the offender "had made it plain" he no longer wanted him to act on his behalf.


Murdoch and the judge then had a discussion about the offending and what sentence might be handed down if the offender was to plead guilty.

"At no time did (Murdoch) challenge the correctness of the allegations made against him," court documents state.

"Instead he requested regular counselling to assist him with his mental health issues.

"The Judge carefully explained what a sentence of supervision would involve before asking Mr Murdoch whether he wished to plead guilty to the charge.

"Mr Murdoch said he did. The charge was then put to him by the Judge who asked him how he wished to plead. Mr Murdoch responded 'guilty'."

He was then convicted and sentenced.

During his first appeal Murdoch told Justice David Gendall in the High Court that he was "uncertain" as to why he was taking the action.

"He observed he was trying to get his life back on track and had been in a 'bad head space'," the Court of Appeal decision states.

"He explained that the offending was borne of frustration in his dealings with MSD.

"He made no endeavour to deny he had made the threats in question, adding that he 'did not know or understand 100 per cent sure what was happening' during the District Court hearing."

Justice Gendall, after reading the hearing transcript, determined there was "no merit" in Murdoch's claim that he did not understand the significance of his plea - or that it was entered "as a consequence of improper pressure".

He concluded that Murdoch had not satisfied him that any grounds existed to vacate his plea of guilty and dismissed the conviction appeal.

He also observed that the sentenced imposed was lenient.

"It focused very much on Mr Murdoch's rehabilitative and reintegrative needs ... It could not be said to be manifestly excessive. He dismissed the sentence appeal," the Court of Appeal decision said.

Murdoch then applied for leave to appeal again.

Court of Appeal judges Justices Simon Moore, Christine French and Jillian Mallon were tasked with making a decision on whether the bid could go ahead.

Justice Moore delivered the decision which was released today.

He said the leave application was handwritten and "very difficult to decipher".

However it appeared to be more of a request for recordings - not only of his telephone call to MSD but also of the hearings in the District Court and the High Court.

"Before us, Mr Murdoch essentially repeated what is recorded in his leave application; he cannot remember what happened or what he said to the complainant," said Justice Moore.

"He explained that his personal circumstances are very difficult and at the present time he feels he is 'going backwards'."

Justice Moore said it was "clear" from the District Court transcripts that Murdoch "fully understood" the significance of his guilty plea and the consequences of pleading guilty to the charge.

"It is also plain from the transcript that he was under no pressure, from any quarter, to plead guilty," he said in the decision.

"He did so fully cognisant of the consequences."

Justice Moore said, notably, neither in Murdoch's application for leave, nor in his submissions to the Court of Appeal, did he deny the offending.

"It is well settled that exceptional circumstances are necessary before an appeal against conviction will be entertained after a guilty plea," he said.

"There are no exceptional circumstances present here. No question of miscarriage of justice arises.

"No matter of general or public importance is engaged in the proposed appeal.

"For these reasons we are satisfied no grounds have been made out to grant leave to bring a second appeal.

"The application for leave to bring a second appeal is declined."