Four men viciously beat a man in the street after Googling his name and finding out he was a convicted sex offender, a court has heard.

"It was a violent attack ... creating mayhem, disorder and serious injury," Judge Kevin Phillips told the Dunedin District Court yesterday.

The quartet's "ringleader" Alex Layton Murphy-Fox, 20, was yesterday jailed for two years and two months after admitting a count of injuring with intent to injure. His co-defendants received community-based sentences.

The court heard Murphy-Fox offered to meet the victim for a restorative justice conference where apologies are usually offered. Instead, he used the meeting to level further abuse at the man he left unconscious on a Dunedin street on July 7.

Matthew Johnston, who has a previous conviction for armed robbery, threw a bottle at the victim's head, which missed. Photo / ODT
Matthew Johnston, who has a previous conviction for armed robbery, threw a bottle at the victim's head, which missed. Photo / ODT

The defendants had been cruising around the city in the early hours, having consumed alcohol and MDMA.

In George St, they saw a member of the public confronting the victim and yelling about his criminal convictions.

The group - including Chance John Edwards, 20, Caleb Edward Ross Stefani, 19, and Matthew Robert Johnston, 21, - searched online to verify the claims.

In 2013, they found, the man had been jailed for nearly five years for sexually abusing a young girl.

Despite having no connection to the case, the men parked on Moray Pl, exited the car and launched into the vigilante violence.

They surrounded the victim. Murphy-Fox was first to strike. He punched the man in the head then held him for Edwards to do the same.

Kicks from Murphy-Fox sent the victim to the ground but gave him the opportunity to break free.

However, Stefani pounced, aiming a punch at the man's head but hitting his arm, before leaving the scene.


Johnston threw a bottle at the victim's head, which missed.

Murphy-Fox and Edwards then beat the man in tandem but it was the former who took the violence up a notch.

He held the victim from behind in a "bear hug" then dropped him on to the road head first, knocking him unconscious.

While he lay there, Murphy-Fox kicked him in the head.

"What did you two brave soldiers do then?" Judge Phillips asked.

"You ran away ... from a man needing urgent medical attention."

The victim suffered concussion, a laceration to his head and a fractured neck.

The court heard he was re-hospitalised when he suffered seizures as a result of the beating.

"It was unprovoked, gratuitous street violence," the judge said.

Johnston was the only member of the group with a significant conviction; he had been jailed for an armed robbery in Oamaru when he was a teenager.

Judge Phillips sentenced him to seven months' home detention and 270 hours' community work.

Edwards received seven months' home detention and 190 hours' community work; and Stefani got 220 hours' community work and 18 months' intensive supervision.

All but Murphy-Fox were ordered to pay the victim $500.