Two years jail for teen dairy robber

Gisborne Courthouse. File picture by Rebecca Grunwell

A TEENAGER who robbed the Huxley Road dairy of a single pack of cigarettes, then used a metal file he was carrying to assault a man who chased him, has been jailed by Gisborne District Court.

Ratakaia Tuhou turned 18 the day before being imprisoned for two years, one month, by Judge Warren Cathcart.

He pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and assault with a sharp weapon.

Because he was only 17 at the time of the offence, Tuhou was excluded from a three-strikes warning that would otherwise apply.

Crown solicitor Steve Manning said deterrence had to be paramount.

Tuhou’s sentence needed to warn other young would-be offenders not to try their luck at a crime that was all too familiar in this and other districts.

Nothing short of imprisonment would do, Mr Manning said. Matters raised in a psychiatric report should only count as additional mitigation.

Counsel Mark Sceats accepted a starting point of about four years, based on a tariff case.

The issue for the court was the amount of discount to apply for Tuhou’s youth and factors in the psychiatric report, he said.

The court heard Tuhou rubbed himself down with pepper in a bid to distract police dogs and dressed himself completely in black before push-biking to the dairy before 6am on April 8.

He hid his bike, then stood in shadow and watched customers leave, before fully covering his face and entering the store with a metal file that looked like a large knife.

A female store assistant, who was stocking shelves, fled through a rear door.

Tuhou leapt the counter and took one pack of cigarettes, valued at about $25, then left. He was chased by two of the store assistant’s relatives.

Tuhou shouted obscenities, got his bike and tried to ride off but was stopped by one of the men, who grabbed him by a shoulder.

Still holding the file in his other hand, Tuhou swung it around and struck the man in the head with such force that he fell to the ground. Tuhou sprinted away on foot.

The injured man suffered tenderness to his head and grazes to his hands.

Judge Warren Cathcart said Tuhou, to his credit, admitted the robbery to police. But he denied the assault.

Tuhou had a number of notations in the youth court but this was his first conviction.

He seemed proud of his gang affiliations and referred to himself as a “gangster”.

The department of Corrections recommended imprisonment, saying Tuhou had previously had poor compliance with other types of sanctions.

He showed a propensity for this type of offending.

Judge Cathcart noted the aggravating features were premeditation, the physical and emotional impact on the victims, and the use of a weapon.

He set a starting point, adjusted for the totality of both charges, of four and a half years.

It was reduced by 13 months for youth discount and a further six months for what the judge described as Tuhou’s serious and sad personal circumstances.

He had longstanding mental and physical health issues, behavioural and learning difficulties.

He received a full 25 percent discount for his early guilty pleas.

A TEENAGER who robbed the Huxley Road dairy of a single pack of cigarettes, then used a metal file he was carrying to assault a man who chased him, has been jailed by Gisborne District Court.

Ratakaia Tuhou turned 18 the day before being imprisoned for two years, one month, by Judge Warren Cathcart.

He pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and assault with a sharp weapon.

Because he was only 17 at the time of the offence, Tuhou was excluded from a three-strikes warning that would otherwise apply.

Crown solicitor Steve Manning said deterrence had to be paramount.

Tuhou’s sentence needed to warn other young would-be offenders not to try their luck at a crime that was all too familiar in this and other districts.

Nothing short of imprisonment would do, Mr Manning said. Matters raised in a psychiatric report should only count as additional mitigation.

Counsel Mark Sceats accepted a starting point of about four years, based on a tariff case.

The issue for the court was the amount of discount to apply for Tuhou’s youth and factors in the psychiatric report, he said.

The court heard Tuhou rubbed himself down with pepper in a bid to distract police dogs and dressed himself completely in black before push-biking to the dairy before 6am on April 8.

He hid his bike, then stood in shadow and watched customers leave, before fully covering his face and entering the store with a metal file that looked like a large knife.

A female store assistant, who was stocking shelves, fled through a rear door.

Tuhou leapt the counter and took one pack of cigarettes, valued at about $25, then left. He was chased by two of the store assistant’s relatives.

Tuhou shouted obscenities, got his bike and tried to ride off but was stopped by one of the men, who grabbed him by a shoulder.

Still holding the file in his other hand, Tuhou swung it around and struck the man in the head with such force that he fell to the ground. Tuhou sprinted away on foot.

The injured man suffered tenderness to his head and grazes to his hands.

Judge Warren Cathcart said Tuhou, to his credit, admitted the robbery to police. But he denied the assault.

Tuhou had a number of notations in the youth court but this was his first conviction.

He seemed proud of his gang affiliations and referred to himself as a “gangster”.

The department of Corrections recommended imprisonment, saying Tuhou had previously had poor compliance with other types of sanctions.

He showed a propensity for this type of offending.

Judge Cathcart noted the aggravating features were premeditation, the physical and emotional impact on the victims, and the use of a weapon.

He set a starting point, adjusted for the totality of both charges, of four and a half years.

It was reduced by 13 months for youth discount and a further six months for what the judge described as Tuhou’s serious and sad personal circumstances.

He had longstanding mental and physical health issues, behavioural and learning difficulties.

He received a full 25 percent discount for his early guilty pleas.

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