A judge has described violent stabbings that critically injured a man as “vigilante action” and “street justice”.
Daniel Ernst, 21, was yesterday sentenced in the Rotorua District Court to nine months’ home detention for the attacks after he pleaded guilty to two charges of injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The stabbings happened on December 15, 2019 after Ernst’s then-girlfriend called him in a distressed state from a Ngongotahā party claiming she had been assaulted by a man and she wanted to be picked up.
Ernst, who now lives in Tauranga, armed himself with a Swiss knife, went to the party, found the man walking on Leonard Rd and stabbed him three times in the back.
He suffered deep wounds to his spine and the side of his torso and a small collapse to his left lung.
Ernst began saying “come on ****” to others who came towards him and raised his fists while holding the knife.
Partygoers had seen Ernst stabbing the man and chased him down the road.
Ernst then came across another man who was walking to an associate’s house after going fishing. The man had not been to the party and had no association with Ernst, the summary of facts said.
Ernst stabbed him to the right of his chest before fleeing the scene.
The man suffered a deep stab wound that collapsed his right lung and caused catastrophic bleeding in his chest that was compressing his heart.
He was taken to hospital in a critical condition. He has since fully recovered, Judge Greg Hollister-Jones told the court.
Neither victim was in court but Ernst was supported by several family members and friends.
Judge Hollister-Jones said normally charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm resulted in prison sentences.
But despite the violent attacks, the judge instead imposed a sentence of nine months’ home detention, citing Ernst’s age, his remorse, his willingness to do restorative justice, the fact he had no previous convictions. He was also working as a fabricator with his father in Tauranga and was a well-regarded employee.
Judge Hollister-Jones told Ernst stabbing the first man could be termed “vigilante action” where he took the law into his own hands and administered “street justice”.
“I don’t accept you were provoked. You were not [at the party]. The threat had passed and the attack on him was unnecessary.”
Judge Hollister-Jones noted Ernst stabbed the second man as he was reacting to what he believed was a “group attack”.
On top of serving nine months’ home detention, Ernst was sentenced to six months’ post-detention conditions and ordered to pay the victims $1000 each in reparation.
– Additional reporting by Caroline Fleming
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