Long jail term for skull stabbing at party

Court House-Sept-2013-07A 21-year-old has been jailed for eight years three months for a party stabbing that left a knife embedded in his victim’s skull and may have life-long effects.

Christchurch District Court Judge Brian Callaghan imposed the sentence after defence counsel Phillip Allan asked him not to impose a jail term that was so heavy it would “crush” the offender.

The judge praised the efforts of the police constable who had medical training and took steps at the scene to keep the victim alive and left the knife in place.

The Crown maintained that the community needed on-going protection from Nivard Juan Cain Smith who was convicted at trial on a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Smith continued to deny in his pre-sentence interview that the stabbing was deliberate, and had rapidly accumulated a list of convictions.

“There is a concerning attitude and behaviour which Mr Smith reveals in the pre-sentence report and through his convictions,” said Crown prosecutor Catherine Butchard, suggesting to Christchurch District Court Judge Brian Callaghan that he consider imposing a non-parole term.

Miss Butchard said the Crown disputed there was any evidence to support for a defence of excessive self defence. There had been no injuries inflicted and no immediate threat from the victim, who was wearing a cast because he had previously broken his arm.

There had been extreme violence and it was good fortune and good luck that the victim was not injured fatally or had brain damage. There were on-going issues for victim, including the need for more surgery to try to correct double-vision. He had been emotionally affected, and now had an anxiety disorder.

The Crown was seeking a nine-year starting point for the sentencing, before other factors were considered. She said the offence had occurred while he was on a sentence of supervision, and he had amassed various convictions, including two for assaults on women.

Judge Callaghan noted that the victim, Sam Doyle, had on-going psychological and emotional trauma, and needed further surgery. It was suspected that the effects could stay with him for the rest of his life.

Smith had pleaded not guilty and went to trial on the question of what his intentions had been at the time. The jury had convicted him on the trial’s sixth day.

Mr Allan said Smith was remorseful and had written a letter of apology to the victim. “He wishes every day that he had not done what he did.” Smith accepted the jury’s verdict that the offence involved significant violence, and that considerable force was needed to stab the knife into the skull.

The stabbing took place on February 16, 2013, in a fracas that spilled onto the street outside a party in Flockton Street, St Albans. The gibbing knife was embedded 8cm into the skull, narrowly missing nerves and vital organs including the optic nerve. It was removed in a delicate operation at Christchurch Hospital.

Smith claimed self-defence and said at the trial that he did not intend to stab Mr Doyle in the head, but the jury rejected that claim. The sentencing heard that Smith had been willing to plead guilty to a lesser charge before the trial.

“To say the complainant was lucky is an understatement,” said the judge. He and his family and friends had thought it was the end for the victim.

“Had it not been for the sterling efforts at the scene by Constable Carl Christensen, who had medical training and was previously an ambulance officer, and who ensured the knife was not removed and applied bandaging, the complainant would have had severe and lasting injuries,” said the judge. “His life was in a precarious position as he lay in the gutter with the knife protruding from his head.”

Smith told the trial that he had taken the knife away from someone else, for safety, and was planning to throw it away. He believed he was going to be hit by Mr Doyle, and accidentally stabbed him as he tried to deflect the blow, while he was holding the knife. The judge said the explanation was “wholly implausible” and it had been rejected by the jury.

The judge ruled out imposing a non-parole term. Smith’s rehabilitation could be easily managed by the parole system, he said.

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