Teen jailed for street robbery of student nurse

A teenager has been jailed for 26 months for the street robbery of a student nurse that ramped up safety concerns in the area around Christchurch Hospital 16 months ago.

The student nurse received a cut to her leg after she was tackled to the ground by Tane Faatafa on Hagley Avenue soon after she finished her shift at the hospital.

She was walking to her car which was parked near Hagley Park when he robbed her of her handbag which contained a laptop computer and her study notes.

Faatafa, now aged 19, told police he carried out the robbery because he wanted money to buy synthetic cannabis.

Faatafa had been due to stand trial, but after talks between defence counsel Moana Cole and prosecutor Will Taffs, he agreed to plead guilty to reduced charges.

He admitted charges of robbery and unlawful possession of a filleting knife which was found in his pocket. The charges were reduced from armed robbery and wounding the victim.

Judge Gilbert called for a stand-down probation report – prepared almost immediately with Faatafa in custody and his father also at court to speak to the officer about his background – and sentenced him a few hours later. Faatafa has no previous convictions.

Faatafa has been in custody since his arrest 16 months ago and is expected to be quickly brought before the Parole Board for his release to be considered. His sentence included time for a commercial burglary in which alcohol and money were taken.

The New Zealand Nursing Organisation raised concerns in 2015 about the lack of safe carparking for afternoon staff at Christchurch Hospital. Members started a petition asking hospital managers to provide safe and adequate car parking options after a series of incidents, including one where a masked man approached a worker from behind and pressed what may have been a firearm into the back of her head.

Mr Taffs said the incident involving Faatafa took place about 10.30pm on April 19, 2018, when the woman left the hospital and walked south along Hagley Avenue. Faatafa appeared intoxicated as he walked towards her, so she crossed the road, away from the park and called her partner on her cellphone.

As they passed each other, Faatafa called out, “What are you looking at?”

The woman continued walking, but Faatafa covered his face with a black mask and turned and ran straight at her. As she turned towards him, he knocked her to the ground.

Faatafa used his knees to pin her to the ground and punched her in the face and head 10 times. She screamed for him to let her go.

The woman’s boyfriend was able to hear the attack on the cellphone.

Mr Taffs said: “The defendant had a yellow-handled filleting knife in his jacket pocket. The victim sustained a 2cm wound but it is accepted by the Crown that he did not deliberately use the knife.”

Faatafa grabbed her handbag, causing the straps to break, and then ran away leaving the woman lying on the ground. She got up and ran in the opposite direction.

A police patrol found Faatafa on Riccarton Avenue, fleeing the scene. He was found with the items he had taken from the student nurse, and the knife.

The woman received bruising and abrasions on her face, left shoulder, left hand, and neck. She received a 2cm wound to her right thigh which needed stitches.

Mr Taffs read the woman’s victim impact report which said the woman was suffering from emotional, physical, and mental problems.

She now needs sleeping tablets at night, but had bad dreams and replayed the attack. She had lost 2kg, and did not feel safe anywhere. She had to have the lights on and could not be left alone all night.

She said she thought she was going to be killed.

Ms Cole said Faatafa said it was a spontaneous attack, and he had always accepted what the woman said had happened, but did not agree with the level of the charge.

Faatafa’s pre-sentence report said he had had a sad childhood and difficult upbringing, and a very serious addiction that he needed to work on.

Judge Gilbert said that the woman lost her grandmother’s ring in the attack that has never been located.

He said the woman had been traumatised both physically and mentally, and he told Faatafa that what he had done had only taken a few seconds but obviously it had had a big impact.

He said because of Faatafa’s youth and lack of previous convictions, the prospects were good for rehabilitation, and it was not too late for him to turn his life around.

He sentenced him prison for two years and two months, and said he had already read him the first of the three strike warnings for repeat violent offenders. He did not make a reparation order because Faatafa would not be able to pay it.