Jury rules bottle jab was in self-defence

‘He could not flee, so he fought’: Counsel

‘He could not flee, so he fought’: Counsel

Gisborne Courthouse. File picture by Rebecca Grunwell

A JURY took little more than 30 minutes in Gisborne District Court yesterday to find a Ruatoria man who bottled a mate during a fight had acted in self-defence and was not guilty of wounding with intent to injure.

Ruatoria apiarist Anthony James Tuhou, 49, had been the subject of a two-day trial in the court.

He stood accused of the wounding charge after jabbing his long-time friend in the face at least three times with a broken bottle during a drunken fight between the pair in March 2015.

Tuhou and the complainant had been friends for about 30 years and worked together as apiarists.

On the day of the incident they had taken the day off work to shift furniture together.

Friendly drinks that night turned into a drunken brawl, the complainant admittedly throwing the first punch and sending Tuhou backwards on to the ground.

Tuhou was pinned under the complainant, and in the ensuing scuffle he picked up a chunk of glass from a broken bottle and jabbed the complainant in the face at least three times.

Another workmate had tried to pull the complainant off, effectively sandwiched the two fighting men even harder together.

The complainant suffered three wounds and had to be driven to Te Puia Hospital, then helicoptered to Gisborne Hospital for treatment to stop the bleeding.

Crown prosecutor Jo Rielly said from the start of the trial that self-defence was a key issue jurors would have to decide.

In law, someone could claim self-defence if they felt they genuinely believed they were under imminent threat and used only the force that was reasonable to meet that threat.

Mrs Rielly said the Crown did not dispute Tuhou had acted in self-defence but the force he used was excessive in the circumstances.

Tuhou said the complainant threatened to kill him. In evidence, the complainant emphatically denied it. He only intended to punch Tuhou in order to give him a “wake-up call”.

He and Tuhou were good friends, so Tuhou would have known he would not have gone that far, Mrs Rielly said.

She asked the jury to consider whether Tuhou’s actions were those of a man “in fear, or of a man in fight, frustrated and angry at his friend?”

Tuhou’s claim in his evidence that he did not know the object he used was glass was implausible, she said.

Defence counsel Vicki Thorpe focused on the level of threat Tuhou felt he was under.

In her opening address, assistant counsel Heather Vaughn said Tuhou was responding to violence initiated by the complainant and the real threat he felt to his safety.

Tuhou described how he felt pinned under the complainant.

“The big fella was about to pound away – it was a freaky buzz,” he said.

“I could not get out, I was stuck. I started panicking, trying to get out. I felt something on the ground, I grabbed it, trying swing at him, trying anything to get out from under him.”

In closing, Ms Thorpe said Tuhou was in the “most vulnerable position one can be in”.

“With a big man over the top of him, a man with the potential to do a lot of harm to him. It is a classic example of fight or flight.

“He could not flee, so he fought.”

A JURY took little more than 30 minutes in Gisborne District Court yesterday to find a Ruatoria man who bottled a mate during a fight had acted in self-defence and was not guilty of wounding with intent to injure.

Ruatoria apiarist Anthony James Tuhou, 49, had been the subject of a two-day trial in the court.

He stood accused of the wounding charge after jabbing his long-time friend in the face at least three times with a broken bottle during a drunken fight between the pair in March 2015.

Tuhou and the complainant had been friends for about 30 years and worked together as apiarists.

On the day of the incident they had taken the day off work to shift furniture together.

Friendly drinks that night turned into a drunken brawl, the complainant admittedly throwing the first punch and sending Tuhou backwards on to the ground.

Tuhou was pinned under the complainant, and in the ensuing scuffle he picked up a chunk of glass from a broken bottle and jabbed the complainant in the face at least three times.

Another workmate had tried to pull the complainant off, effectively sandwiched the two fighting men even harder together.

The complainant suffered three wounds and had to be driven to Te Puia Hospital, then helicoptered to Gisborne Hospital for treatment to stop the bleeding.

Crown prosecutor Jo Rielly said from the start of the trial that self-defence was a key issue jurors would have to decide.

In law, someone could claim self-defence if they felt they genuinely believed they were under imminent threat and used only the force that was reasonable to meet that threat.

Mrs Rielly said the Crown did not dispute Tuhou had acted in self-defence but the force he used was excessive in the circumstances.

Tuhou said the complainant threatened to kill him. In evidence, the complainant emphatically denied it. He only intended to punch Tuhou in order to give him a “wake-up call”.

He and Tuhou were good friends, so Tuhou would have known he would not have gone that far, Mrs Rielly said.

She asked the jury to consider whether Tuhou’s actions were those of a man “in fear, or of a man in fight, frustrated and angry at his friend?”

Tuhou’s claim in his evidence that he did not know the object he used was glass was implausible, she said.

Defence counsel Vicki Thorpe focused on the level of threat Tuhou felt he was under.

In her opening address, assistant counsel Heather Vaughn said Tuhou was responding to violence initiated by the complainant and the real threat he felt to his safety.

Tuhou described how he felt pinned under the complainant.

“The big fella was about to pound away – it was a freaky buzz,” he said.

“I could not get out, I was stuck. I started panicking, trying to get out. I felt something on the ground, I grabbed it, trying swing at him, trying anything to get out from under him.”

In closing, Ms Thorpe said Tuhou was in the “most vulnerable position one can be in”.

“With a big man over the top of him, a man with the potential to do a lot of harm to him. It is a classic example of fight or flight.

“He could not flee, so he fought.”

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