A Hawke's Bay man has become one of the few people ordered to serve a maximum possible sentence under the three strikes legislation which took effect more than nine years ago.

Appearing in the High Court in Wellington on Monday, Leo Winitana, now 27 and represented by Hawke's Bay barrister Matthew Phelps, was sentenced to the maximum possible seven years' jail without parole for wounding a fellow Rimutaka Prison inmate with intent to injure on July 4, 2018.

The three strikes legislation, targeting violent offending and aiming to act as a deterrent, took effect on June 1, 2010, directing judges to issue a first strike warning on the first conviction after that date, when offenders would be told that for a second such offence they would have to serve the full sentence imposed, and that for a third they would have to serve the maximum penalty available.

Judges are able to avoid imposing a maximum penalty if convinced it would be manifestly unjust in the circumstances, and it was only in August 2018 that the first three strikes sentence was imposed, on a man appearing in the High Court in Whanganui and also jailed for seven years for wounding with intent to injure.


The limited number of three strikes sentences has been mainly dictated by the amount of time offenders have been in jail and less able to offend between sentences.

Winitana's progress through the stages dates back to when he was 18 and sentenced to three years' jail for punching a stranger, knocking him to the ground and kicking him in a Hastings street.

At that time Judge Tony Adeane said the circumstances made "sadly familiar reading,'' Winitana having left a party intoxicated and launching the assault after encountering another man on the street and demanding his "stuff". Winitana appeared to have little remorse or understanding of what he had done, the judge said.

At the time of the latest offence, Winitana was serving time for burglary and assault, a sentence which ends in August 2021.

It was not his first conviction for offending while in jail. Less than two months after being jailed as a teen in 2011 he was one of five Hawke's Bay Regional Prison inmates who broke through a ceiling to stage a 24-hour rooftop protest.