Court hears of spiral into drug use and rape

A man who raped a drunk 15-year-old girl in a Linwood street found his life spiralled out of control and into drug use after his father was killed in a case that became a one-punch manslaughter.

A six-year six-month jail term was imposed on 22-year-old Elijah James Coker in the Christchurch District Court today, for the street rape on March 5, and for other offending.

Coker had pleaded guilty to the rape charge, as well as breaches of community work and supervision, four petrol thefts, four charges of driving while suspended, breach of bail, obstructing the police, and being found unlawfully in a building.

Defence counsel Steve Hembrow said Coker had been “extremely moved and upset” when he read the girl’s victim impact statement, and had written a letter of apology.

“He is an extremely polite and respectful young man and I am quite stunned that he has ended up in this situation,” he told Judge Gary MacAskill.

There had been a deterioration in his lifestyle after the death of his father, Bruce Coker, who was found bashed in the street north of Wellington in December 2014, and died in hospital. His 27-year-old attacker, Cruz Mason Murray, was eventually found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for three years seven months.

Before his father’s death, Elijah Coker was working full time and living with his partner and one-year-old child. He and his partner split up, but he later returned to New Zealand from Australia to try to get back together with them. It was unsuccessful.

He then went to live in the North Island but it became what Mr Hembrow described as “a maelstrom of petty offending and drug use”.

The drunk girl had got off a bus in Linwood and became separated from her friends when Coker encountered her sitting on the footpath and feeling unwell. He carried her into some bushes where he removed some of her clothing and raped her against a fence.

He told police he had “misread the situation”. His pre-sentence report cited his extreme intoxication and poor judgment for not thinking of any consequences beyond immediate gratification.

Coker said that his own “intoxication and drug use” meant he did not take the girl’s intoxication into account.

Judge MacAskill said he accepted that the killing of Coker’s father had “substantially destabilised” him. His drug use had started by the time he was sentenced for other offending in August 2016, but he had no history of sexual offending.

The girl had suffered very serious emotional harm consequences from the offending.

Judge MacAskill declined a Crown suggestion for a non-parole term to be imposed, because it was Coker’s first sexual offending. He disqualified him from driving and ordered reparations for the thefts.

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