A man who burst into a home wielding two knives and a crossbow was fought off by a disabled person with their walker, a court has heard.

Bradford Peter Torbett appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to two counts of possessing a weapon, one of theft and one of assaulting a woman.

The court heard the defendant had grown up in a gang pad and been both a witness to and victim of violence.

The 36-year-old had no positive role models growing up, Judge Michael Crosbie said, and had seen problems solved using force.

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"Consequently you've had a history of flying off the handle," he said.

In 2009, Torbett was jailed for seven-and-a-half years at the Timaru District Court for a brutal aggravated robbery in Geraldine.

In that incident, he beat up a cannabis supplier in his home then stabbed him four times in the head before ransacking the premises, the court heard at sentencing.

Torbett's violent streak reappeared on October 22 last year when he was home with his partner of two years.

He punched her in the face, grabbed her by the clothes and pushed her to the ground.

The defendant then dragged her down the hallway before the episode ended, leaving the victim with a swollen left eyebrow and sore head.

Two months later came the frightening home invasion when Torbett walked into the Dunedin home of his partner's mother carrying the weapons.

One of the knives was 45cm long, the other was 30cm, Judge Crosbie said.

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The crossbow was slung over the defendant's shoulder.

Torbett began yelling at the two people inside the house and said he had just been with gang members.

The victims were terrified and one of them forced him out using her walker, the court heard.

Three days later, however, he was back again.

This time Torbett was confronted outside the home.

He grabbed the victim's cellphone and bolted, before police found him shortly afterwards.

Despite the violent behaviour Torbett's partner said she wanted to continue their relationship and that she felt responsible for him being locked up since December.

They had spoken of marriage, she said in a statement to the court.

Her mother was less forgiving and said she still felt nervous, even with Torbett locked up.

Defence counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner argued home detention was the appropriate sentence but Judge Crosbie said that was inappropriate.

Torbett was jailed for 20 months and deemed a high risk of reoffending given his "criminal lifestyle".