Tsunami looter jailed for three years

May 17, 2017 | By More

A man who looted a family’s home in New Brighton during a tsunami alert evacuation has met his victims and apologised.

Tama Tapine, 24, was sentenced in the Christchurch District Court to three years’ prison for the burglary of the home in November, when the family were evacuated because of the danger of a tsunami after the Kaikoura earthquake. He was also sentenced on driving charges.

Defence counsel Trudi Aickin said Tapine attended a restorative justice conference with the family, and had genuine remorse now that he knew the full impact his offending had on them.

She said he was living a chaotic lifestyle and staying on friends’ sofas at the time, and was dealing with a drug addiction.

He had used his time in prison constructively, she said.

Police prosecutor Aja Trinder said the police were seeking $500 reparation for the family, and $14,300 for the two cars involved in the driving charges.

Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said between 2am and 6.30am on November 14, Tapine cut the padlock on the front gate to get into the Bower Avenue property. He searched the garage, sleepout, and every room of the house, loaded items into the car he had found the keys of, and driven away.

On November 26 Tapine took another car, and when police found it in a driveway he drove off, failed to stop for the police siren, drove recklessly at speed until he failed to take a bend, and hit another car. He did not stop to check for injuries, got out of the car, and ran from the scene.

The woman whose car he hit was not injured but her victim impact statement said she was upset and angry.

The family’s victim impact statement said that it was a day they would never forget, and their daughter’s medication for unbearable pain was taken. Also taken was a hearing system that had no value to anyone except their daughter, and was used to transmit her school teacher’s voice to her hearing aid, it said.

The family could not concentrate, and every noise startled them, and the children would not stay at home on their own. It was “A huge devastating kick in the guts”, the statement said.

Judge O’Driscoll said Tapine had 36 previous convictions, and was assessed as a high risk of causing harm to others, and a high risk of re-offending, with methamphetamine contributing to the offending.

He said it was a significant burglary, where vulnerable people were targeted, and not all of their possessions have been recovered.

Tapine’s driving put a number of people at risk, and it was luck or chance someone wasn’t seriously injured, he said.

He sentenced Tapine on charges of failing to stop for police, reckless driving, failing to ascertain injury after an accident, unlawfully taking a car, and burglary, to three years’ prison, and disqualified him from driving for 19 months. He ordered all the reparation sought, and said Tapine could show his true remorse by paying the victims back after his release.

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