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July 23, 2010

Community detention sentence for brain injury

A 19-year-old man who punched his victim in an “unprovoked, premeditated attack” causing serious brain injury, was sentenced to community detention in the Christchurch District Court today.

Stefan Ronald Vaiola’s defence counsel, Tony Garrett, said Vaiola had attended a restorative justice conference with his victim and his victim’s father. Vaiola found the conference a valued opportunity to personally see the man and say sorry.

There was ample evidence of his remorse, and letters of apology went to the victim, he said.

There was one serious punch with very serious consequences, but the victim was making good progress.

He said he was impressed with Vaiola’s attitude. He was polite, and conscious of what he had done.

He co-operated fully with the police, and was respected by the people who had come to court with him as support.

Judge Philip Moran asked if anyone of his family would like to address him and an aunt said she was at the restorative justice meeting which had gone well. She said Vaiola was not a bad person, and he was prepared to turn his life around.

Judge Moran said it was a serious, unprovoked, premeditated attack causing serious injury to the victim’s head, leaving him with no memory of what had happened to him.

Vaiola had heard there was a inter-school argument happening outside McDonalds at Merivale.

He went there angry and intending to get into a fight, Judge Moran said.

His friend had a broken nose and Vaiola hit the victim a hefty punch in his head, and when he fell he struck his head on the curb.

He was unconscious and bleeding from the ears, and suffered a brain injury, had a fractured right temple bone, and was bleeding in the brain, Judge Moran said.

He said it was out of character, and Vaiola was a former talented captain of the St Bede’s first XV rugby team. He said he was supported by his family and community but when he went flatting he started drinking alcohol. This made Vaiola lack self-control and judgment.

He said there had to be consequences for criminal conduct and rehabilitation was important.

He sentenced Vaiola to four months’ community detention, reinforced with supervision for six months on the charge of causing injury in circumstances where if death had occurred he would have been guilty of manslaughter.

He set a curfew of 7pm to 7am and said he was to attend anger management programmes, and alcohol and drug programmes if required by his probation officer.