Jail for choker hold that led to riverside manslaughter

File image. © Andrew Bardwell

A man who put Simon Mark Prue in a choker hold after Prue had verbally abused him and kicked his bike, was jailed for nearly five years on a manslaughter charge.

The High Court at Christchurch was told of the family’s feeling of loss from Mr Prue’s death, and an apology and remorse from the 38-year-old who killed him.

Tony Joe Harrington was biking along Ferry Road about 9pm on February 12, 2016, with two friends who were walking, when Prue abused the group verbally.

Harrington rode his bike after Prue and caught up with him at the corner of Ferry Road and Radley Street.

The two men exchanged verbal abuse, and Prue kicked the bike repeatedly.

Prue walked away when Harrington lost his balance, but Harrington ran after him and tackled him to the ground on the Heathcote riverbank.

Prue landed on his face, and Harrington put him in a choker hold, putting pressure on his neck.

While Prue was motionless Harrington punched him several times in the head, and kicked him in the head and back. He walked away, but returned to try CPR before running off.

His friend rang him and said Prue had died, so he returned and talked to the police. Prue was confirmed dead by ambulance staff at the scene.

At his sentencing Prue’s mother, sister, and brother read victim impact statements. His mother said she felt complete devastation, and she now felt insecure and unsafe. She said Harrington had taken away the love she had had for other people, and made her hard.

His brother said Prue would do anything for him, and he was his prop.

His sister said the death of her brother had had a long-lasting impact on her life and her family’s life. She said her spirit had been broken, and losing her brother had meant she had lost faith in life.

Defence counsel Serina Bailey said Harrington had read the victim impact statements and was genuinely affected, and they had had a considerable impact on him.

She said Harrington did not set out to make trouble that night, and was not a violent person.

He reacted to the verbal abuse and small degree of provocation, she said, and responded and over-reacted.

He had no intention to destroy a life and was willing to attend a restorative justice meeting with any of Prue’s family.

She read a letter Harrington had written to the court apologising to the family, and saying he was extremely remorseful.

Crown prosecutor Cathy Basire said the attack was not self-defence. Prue had an existing heart disease, but there was a danger using a choker hold on anyone, as there was no way to predict who was going to die and who would live.

Justice Rachel Dunningham read Harrington the first of the three strike warnings for repeat violent offenders.

She said Harrington used an extreme amount of violence on Prue, and did it in the heat of the moment.

At the time Prue was just an object of Harrington’s anger, she said, but having seen and heard the victim impact statements she hoped he had a picture of the whole person.

She said Harrington had been drinking alcohol before the incident, but he did not start the abuse, and he turned himself into the police after he had given some assistance to Prue.

She sentenced him to four years nine months’ prison.

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