A real estate agent tried to wrench his fiance’s engagement ring off her finger moments before he pushed her and then hit her in the face with a cell phone.
Ben Loris Blair told his now-former partner he no longer wanted to marry her in the midst of an argument that quickly turned into a physical assault in July 2020.
Today Blair was sentenced in the Nelson District Court to nine months’ supervision and 150 hours of community work on several charges, including the assault of his ex, assaulting a member of the public outside a Nelson city bar, assaulting and resisting police, and breaching a protection order.
The court heard the couple and their 1-year-old child were at Blair’s grandfather’s home in Westport when they began arguing.
At about 9.30pm Blair walked into the bathroom where his partner was brushing her teeth and pushed her head into the wall by the sink with enough force it left a bump on her forehead. He then grabbed her arm and pulled her back so that she fell to the ground.
The woman then went into the lounge where their child was asleep on a couch and sat down.
Blair walked over to her, grabbed the engagement ring on her left hand and tried to yank the ring off her finger, telling her he didn’t want to marry her and wanted the ring back.
He then pushed her, causing her to fall back on the couch next to their child.
According to the summary of facts Blair, who was holding his cell phone, then hit her in the face with it - once on the cheek and then again on the lip, causing injuries.
In court, defence lawyer Yvanca Clarisse said there were “differences in opinion” as to what had happened, and that the summary of facts was “not completely accurate” in terms of the way Blair viewed events, but that he had pleaded guilty to the charges.
She added that Blair had been subjected to attacks on social media by friends of his former partner.
The well-dressed 29-year-old fumbled in the dock as his former partner described in a victim impact statement how he “always went for her face” to make her “look ugly” so she would be forced to hide herself away.
She told the court that his “perfect public image made her sick” when she had been left to cover household and mortgage costs when Blair had refused to assist her financially.
The victim, who was supported by a family member, also described how Blair had demeaned her by calling her a “dumb Māori” and “fat” which had destroyed her self-esteem.
She also told the court she believed he was capable of killing her.
The court heard how after she was hit by the cellphone she yelled to Blair’s grandfather for help and to call the police, causing Blair to hold her down on the couch with both hands until his grandfather walked into the room.
Blair released his hold on her, but after the victim told the grandfather she had been hit and wanted to go home, she was told “it did not happen”, that she was not leaving, and that he was not calling the police.
The victim then grabbed her cell phone and called the police herself while holding their young child.
She says Blair and his grandfather than began verbally abusing her while she was on the phone. They then blocked her as she tried to leave, pushing her back as she tried to go past them with the child in her arms.
She managed to push past them out to the driveway to where the police were waiting.
Breaching a protection order
Two years later, in September 2022, Blair was charged with breaching a final protection order which had been served on him just two months earlier.
The couple had by then had twins and he had reluctantly gone to his former partner’s address, having been summoned by her via a string of text messages, wanting help with one of the children who was unwell.
Blair helped get the children ready to take to the hospital, but while they were driving, they began arguing.
On the way back from the hospital Blair began verbally abusing the victim again, at which stage she began recording him on her cell phone. He then grabbed the phone, only giving it back when she threatened to wave down a member of the public for help.
A month later Blair was arrested and charged with assault, after punching a nightclub patron in the eye with a closed fist as he left a nightclub. Blair, who was drunk, had stood outside waiting for the victim to leave the premises.
As he was being processed at the police station Blair got in the constable’s face and told him, “I’m going to f.....g end you”. A scuffle followed, which ended with Blair kicking a police staff member in the shin, resulting in charges of assaulting and resisting police.
Only weeks later, in the early hours of November 20 last year, Blair, by then on bail, had been drinking in town and was arrested.
‘You are not a 5-year-old’
Judge David Ruth refused to accept his argument he “didn’t know” it was a condition of his bail terms.
“You are not a 5-year-old,” Judge Ruth said.
It was while Blair was waiting outside the police custody unit he became angry and tried to grab the police officer’s notebook, and tried to bite a constable during the scuffle.
Blair then had to be restrained by four officers as he resisted efforts to get him into a cell.
He again tried to bite the same constable.
The “aggressive” struggle continued for several minutes when Blair tried to kick and push the officers, resulting in further charges.
Clarisse said Blair’s offending had escalated since 2018 against a backdrop of a challenging relationship.
She said he had suffered his own traumatic events in the past and had also suffered anxiety and depression to levels which had required specialist input, but that his job as a fulltime real estate agent had helped him.
It was now possible his agent’s licence was in jeopardy as a result of his offending, but his employer had offered her full support.
Blair, through his lawyer, tried in vain to introduce fresh material which might have helped to explain some of his actions during the sentencing, but Judge Ruth said they were of no consequence to him at this point.
He said Blair had “had a number of bridges to build”.
He was sentenced to supervision and community work on the lead charges of assaulting a person in a family relationship and breaching a protection order, with further supervision and community work on all other charges, to be served concurrently.