Repeat armed robber faces long jail term

File image. © Andrew Bardwell

A man will serve all of a four-and-a-half year jail term for the knife-point robbery of two Christchurch taxi drivers, which probably netted just over $200.

Matthew James Greenwood, 33, already had a first-strike warning for another aggravated robbery in 2001.

He got his second-strike warning today from Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll and it means he will serve his latest sentence without parole.

Judge O’Driscoll warned him that if he commits another aggravated robbery – apparently his crime of choice – he will have to serve the maximum term of 14 years’ jail without parole under the three-strikes scheme.

The judge said the vulnerability of workers such as taxi drivers needed to be considered in imposing the sentence. Both drivers were left anxious, nervous and scared after their encounters with Greenwood.

“I should not have to put up with this when I am just trying to do my job,” one of the drivers wrote in his victim impact statement.

When the police arrested Greenwood after the robberies on January 21, he made a run for it. He has a broken leg to show for that effort, though he did insist on standing up as he was sentenced.

Crown prosecutor Sean Mallett said Greenwood was assessed as a medium-to-high risk of reoffending and causing harm to others. One of the drivers had feared for his life, thinking Greenwood would stab him.

Defence counsel Ruth Buddicom said Greenwood had gained little more than $200 from the two robberies, committed to get money for his chronic drug addiction. He had a troubled background, and was ashamed that he had ended up in this position.

Judge O’Driscoll said Greenwood had ordered two taxis on his cellphone, at 2.30pm and midnight on January 21, and had then pulled out the knife and robbed the drivers. Neither driver was injured.

Greenwood had come to New Zealand from the United States twice. Since his second arrival in 2010, he had accumulated 16 convictions, before the latest offending.

His life had unravelled when Hurricane Katrina hit the southern United States in 2005. He had lost his job, his home, his relationship, and had been assaulted in the looting that followed. He took to drinking a litre of spirits a day, and later was drinking two boxes of ready-to-drink mixed spirits a day. He then moved on to drugs.

He had now been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. He had been homeless for a time, and had an increased risk of compulsive behaviour. For a time, he had begged on the streets of New Zealand but felt “humiliated and angry about the poor response he got”, Judge O’Driscoll said.

Imposing the four-and-a-half year jail term, the judge urged Greenwood to do whatever counselling or programmes he could in prison, to address the factors that led to his offending. “It seems to me there is a deep-seated issue that needs to be addressed,” he said.


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