Judge’s kindness misfired with violent offender

Offenders seeking compassion can expect a tougher time from one Christchurch judge after his kindness to Huikoma Mitchell went wildly wrong.

“It doesn’t just impact him,” said Christchurch District Court Judge Tom Gilbert. “It impacts how I am going to view such requests in the future from others.”

On the morning he was due to be sentenced, 28-year-old Mitchell chopped off the electronic bracelet that was monitoring his bail and went on the run for more than a month.

Judge Gilbert had given the Riccarton roofer a sentencing indication of four years six months in jail, but had let him go home on bail on the day he accepted the indication and pleaded guilty.

“I was content to let leave you in the community for a couple of weeks because you had been on electronic bail for some time, so that you could say goodbye to your family and tidy up your affairs. You gave me your assurance that you would present yourself for sentencing on February 16.”

At about 9.30am on that day, just when the sentencing was due to happen, Mitchell cut off his bracelet and went on the run.

Defence counsel Ethan Huda said Mitchell had written a letter to the judge “apologising for effectively taking advantage of Your Honour’s kindness in granting him bail”.

The bail had allowed him to see his children before his jail term began, but a few days before the sentencing he had found that his partner was pregnant and had decided to flee and see her instead of going to court.

“It was not the smartest thing to do, but that’s the choice he made,” said Mr Huda. He urged the judge not to uplift the sentence because of it. He said the Parole Board would eventually take his compliance into account in deciding on his release date.

Crown prosecutor Sean Mallett said it was appropriate to mark the absconding with an increase in his sentence for what was “a vicious attack”.

After a dispute with his ex-partner at a house in Bromley, on December 22, 2016, Mitchell attacked a man who he knew slightly at the address, punching him in the face 30 times, and causing cuts to his hand and above his right eye after threatening him with a knife.

The punches caused broken cheek bones, broken eye sockets, and burst blood vessels in his eyes. The victim needed four operations and was now seeking counselling for the continuing trauma.

Mitchell has previously been jailed, and says he will seek help while in prison for his anger management issues.

He had pleaded guilty to charges of intentionally causing grievous bodily harm, and unlawfully taking the car the man had been driving, after the bashing.

Judge Gilbert gave Huikoma a first strike warning and imposed prison terms totalling four years seven months – effectively adding another month for absconding and delaying his sentencing.


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