A man who suffered a brain bleed after having a chair thrown over his head in a Rotorua bar brawl says he hopes a judge's "lenient" sentence for his attacker will finally make him change his violent ways.
Piripi Wiremu Kingi, 35, was deported from Australia in 2018 having spent the previous seven years in and out of jail for a string of violent attacks.
He had only been in New Zealand a year when he threw a chair over a man's head in a brawl at Rotorua's Ponsonby Rd Lounge Bar, causing the man to lose consciousness, convulse and suffer a brain bleed.
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But Kingi won't be going to jail. He was sentenced yesterday in Rotorua District Court by Judge Phillip Cooper to nine months' home detention after previously pleading guilty to a charge of wounding with intent to injure.
What saved Kingi from a prison term was what Judge Cooper described as Kingi's "remarkable turnaround" since being deported and the fact his partner and their five children would lose their home if he went to jail. Kingi worked on a dairy farm that came with a house.
There were claps, cheers and high fives from Kingi's supporters in the public gallery when Judge Cooper handed down his sentence.
Speaking publicly for the first time, the victim, who didn't want to be identified, told the Rotorua Daily Post after the sentencing he was surprised how "lenient" Kingi's sentence was.
"I thought it would have been harsher because of his history."
Kingi fractured the larynx and jaw of a fellow inmate during an unprovoked attack in a Perth prison in 2014. He was sentenced in 2015 to further prison time and ordered to be deported once the sentence ended.
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Judge Cooper said that in Australia, Kingi also had three assault convictions in 2009, and two convictions for causing bodily harm, in 2019 and 2011, that had resulted in jail sentences.
Kingi was with friends at Ponsonby Rd Lounge Bar in Rotorua about 1.40am on August 17 last year. The victim, who doesn't know Kingi, was also in the bar with a separate group of friends.
A disturbance broke out between the groups and they began throwing chairs and tables at each other, a police summary of facts said.
The fight spilled out of the bar on to Eat Streat. The rival groups took chairs from the bar to use as improvised weapons.
The victim walked from the bar towards Kingi, who picked up a chair, raised it above his head and swung it on to the victim's head.
Kingi continued to throw chairs towards the bar and the other group before two people with him eventually pulled him away.
After listening to Kingi's lawyer, Erin Reilly, ask for home detention for her client, Judge Cooper said he would not send Kingi to prison.
Judge Cooper said despite the incident, Kingi had turned his life around since coming back to New Zealand and was more settled.
He acknowledged Kingi had offered $1000 emotional harm reparation to the victim and that he wanted anger management and drug and alcohol counselling.
The victim told the Rotorua Daily Post he understood it would be better for Kingi's partner and children to not lose their home and hoped Kingi would get help for his anger issues.
"There is something there. You can't have a history like that and keep carrying on. What happens when he does it again is that judge going to say 'oh s***'."
The man described his head injury as being a "dark moment". He said as the swelling went down around his brain, he lost the feeling on one side of his body, which was frightening.
He described the headaches that followed during his recovery as "the worst" but thankfully now has no ongoing medical issues.
However, he said he still suffered when out in public. He tried to return to the bar with his friends at the start of this year but only lasted about 20 minutes.
"I just got anxiety and said to my friends 'I've got to get out of here'."
He said he experienced the same feeling when being in small spaces around lots of people.
"It's just like an anxiety thing and I slowly start to panic."
Ponsonby Rd Lounge Bar owner Tim Smith said the bar was one of Rotorua's top hospitality locations and he was proud of how his staff had handled the situation on the night.
"This outcome is a direct result of swift action by our team to prioritise the safety of our customers."
The bar had been closed during the Covid-19 alert levels and reopened this weekend.
"In reopening on Friday, the commitment of our hospitality and security staff to maintain a welcoming and safe atmosphere, with zero tolerance for gangs, bullying or violence of any kind, remains unchanged."