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Court Appeal Backfires On Tourist Attacker

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, July 2 NZPA - An appeal against conviction for the attempted rape of an Australian backpacker has backfired on a teenager, who has had his jail term increased from four to six years.

Maia Rongonui was sentenced last November after being convicted on charges of assault with intent to commit rape, and sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection.

The Australian victim was approached by Rongonui as she walked through Christchurch in 2007, when he was 17 years-old.

The court was told he offered to walk her home but turned on her when she rebuffed his advances, hitting her and sexually assaulting her.

During sentencing in Christchurch District Court, a visibly upset Judge Jane Farish was apprehensive about jailing Rongonui at all, saying it was likely to ruin him.

Rongonui was "not a bad boy at all", she said.

The act was "impulsive and out of character" and she hoped the Parole Board would quickly consider his release to the community and his family.

The Appeal Court didn't show the same compassion toward Rongonui, who had racked up 16 convictions before his sentencing, rejecting his appeal against conviction.

It agreed with an appeal by the Solicitor-General against the leniency of the sentence and increased it from four years to six.

In a decision released today, the Appeal Court judges agreed with the Crown's suggestion that the sentence was in fact "manifestly inadequate".

Judge Farish had given too much weight to testimonial material and not enough to Rongonui's criminal history.

Her comments about Rongonui's character were irreconcilable and, furthermore, there was no guilty plea and no remorse shown.

Rongonui's appeal against conviction was based on Judge Farish allegedly giving confusing direction to the jury and criticising defence counsel when summing up, but that was dismissed.

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