A young mum has been told that but for the skill of a doctor she could have been facing a murder charge for an assault carried out by her boyfriend with a softball bat near a Hastings service station forecourt.

Santana Taipiha, 21, was sentenced in Napier District Court on Friday to five months' community detention and nine months' supervision, while her boyfriend Jerome Watene was sentenced to 11 months' home detention after admitting a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The couple were both aged 19 and had recently lost a child by miscarriage at the time of the incident late on the Sunday night of February 10 last year, in personal circumstances Judge Geoff Rea said "spiralled out of control" after Taipiha left their home to go to the BP Stortford Lodge service station to get cigarettes.

While in the service station, a street-dweller unknown to the woman got into her car and refused to get out when she returned.


Summaries said he did get out when she called the police, but before they arrived she had driven home and told Watene what had happened, and that the man had a knife - "incorrect information", the judge noted in December.

It created the "perfect storm" for Watene, who had "lost the plot," in circumstances "quite easy to understand" with Watene feeling some responsibility to look after his partner, the judge had said.

Watene had grabbed the bat in a bag and the pair went in search of the man, finding him at a picnic table near the service station, where Watene clubbed him heavily once in the face, smashing his nose and causing other critical injuries.

Judge Rea said the man was in a life-threatening condition and in a coma for several days afterwards, and had to have reconstructive surgery, but had since died for reasons unrelated to the assault.

Both Watene and Taipiha had taken part in restorative justice processes with the man's family who accepted the remorse and apologies, saying the man had blamed himself, that he had been "silly" and the incident would never have happened had he not tried to get into the woman's car.