A stolen bicycle wheel meant life changed instantly and permanently for arborist 46-year-old Wayne Scothern, and for homeless 37-year-old Christopher Stone.
Scothern went out driving from his central city flat where Stone had raided the wheel from his locked-up bike, and spotted the offender with the wheel only two blocks away in Manchester Street.
Stone was finishing his “cigarette butt run”, picking up butts along the street to try to get enough tobacco for a smoke of his own.
Scothern drove his four-wheel drive car onto the footpath, ramming Stone into a bus shelter and smashing his leg.
Scothern’s then partner jumped out of the car, grabbed the stolen wheel back, and they drove off.
That was one of the things that worried Christchurch District Court Judge Jane Farish at Scothern’s sentencing after he was found guilty at trial of injuring Stone with reckless disregard for his safety.
He had been so totally focussed on retrieving the wheel he had not considered the consequences, injuring the thief and then driving off without checking him. Judge Farish said he had been “dismissive” of Stone – one of those marginalised by society.
The consequences for both of them were huge.
For Stone, he had had a compound fracture of his leg that required a cast and then a skin graft. It has not healed well and Judge Farish wondered if that was because of the unhealthy lifestyle he leads.
He refused to meet Scothern at a restorative justice conference, apparently feeling that he now had to deal with on-going problems with his leg as part of an already difficult life.
Scothern claimed he had wanted to block the victim from getting away, but had not meant to ram or injure him, but he had to admit the recklessness involved in driving up onto the footpath. The jury found him guilty.
The conviction has had huge implications for him, since that day when he was employed as an arborist, living in a relationship while hoping to get permanent New Zealand residency and arrange for his father to come out from England to join him.
Since the trial – which attracted media coverage – his relationship has broken up, he has lost his job, his work visa has been terminated, and with the sentencing now completed he is likely to face a deportation order.
Defence counsel Andrew Riches took issue with the Crown’s claim that the crash had involved “serious violence”, and the judge agreed. He also disputed the claim that it was “vigilante action” which deserved an increased sentence.
Judge Farish also agreed with that, saying that it was “a degree of summary justice” rather than vigilante action.
Crown prosecutor Deidre Orchard said Scothern had taken the law into his own hands, and his actions had caused “immediate pain and considerable damage”.
Judge Farish described Scothern as being immature and impulsive. His actions had led to significant consequences. His recklessness had been a short-lived, spur of the moment decision.
She released him on home detention for five months, ordered him to do $350 hours of community work, and ordered him to pay $1000 emotional harm reparations to the victim. She also gave him a first-strike warning.