Prison officer attacked with boiling water

August 26, 2016 | By More
File image. © Andrew Bardwell

File image. © Andrew Bardwell

A prison officer’s “remarkably forgiving” victim impact statement helped in the sentencing of a 23-year-old who had tipped boiling water on him.

When he attacked the officer, Charles John Tawha was in Christchurch Men’s Prison on remand for another attack on November 29, 2015, the Christchurch District Court was told.

He had become angry with a woman and threw a kettle at her that hit her on the back. She went for a walk with him and near Kerrs Road they stopped at a park. While she was on the ground they argued, and he applied pressure to her throat until she couldn’t breathe, only releasing his grip when she stopped struggling.

He followed her down Linwood Avenue, kicking her in the leg and abdomen, and punching her in the head. A passer-by intervened.

Tawha was remanded in custody but on April 9 he had a disagreement with a prison officer, abusing him and throwing boiling water at him. He tipped the remaining hot water over the officer’s face, chest, and stomach.

The officer received first and second degree burns to his neck, chest, and upper abdomen, and skin damage and discolouration to his face. His victim impact report said the pain was excruciating, and he required treatment for some time, but there were no lasting physical effects.

Defence counsel, Jeff McCall, said Tawha had an inability to control his actions, but was very remorseful after he made his mistakes.

Crown prosecutor Pip Curry said it was a “nasty cowardly attack” on the prison officer who was entitled to a full measure of protection.

Judge Raoul Neave said the officer’s report was remarkably forgiving, and he was sentencing Tawha on charges of shoplifting, assaults with intent to injure, and breaches of court conditions.

He said Tawha’s pattern since Youth Court, where there was a list of unpleasant crimes, was to get angry, aggressive, lash out, and then apologise.

He told Tawha that unless he made changes he would become a hardened criminal, spending his life in jail, and hurting a lot of people along the way.

Tawha wrote a letter to the judge who said that it confirmed what the pre-sentence report said about Tawha’s change of insight into his criminal lifestyle.

Judge Neave said Tawha was motivated to make changes, but needed to cut his ties with a gang if he wanted to be a good parent, as parents had to make sacrifices and hard choices.

He told him to think about his daughter, and to put her first, not the gang, crime, or his temper.

He sentenced him to 22 months prison, with special release conditions for a further six months.

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