Christchurch man sentenced for tracking estranged wife for two years

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Feb 2021, 8:14PM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Christchurch man sentenced for tracking estranged wife for two years

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Feb 2021, 8:14PM

This story may be confronting or triggering for some people. Information about where to get help for family harm is listed below.

A man who stalked his estranged wife after she left him - breaching a protection order six times and "creeping" onto her property at night to install GPS trackers onto her car so he could monitor her movements - has been sentenced to community detention.

Jason Knowles appeared before Judge Quentin Hix in the Christchurch District Court this afternoon.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to six charges relating to breaching a protection order granted to his former wife who says she left him because of his "abuse" and treatment of their children.

His estranged wife read her Victim Impact Statement which Judge Hix said was "very brave".

She and her children had permanent name suppression.

She said the "intimidation and threats" were unrelenting over the last two years and Knowles felt "completely entitled" to do whatever he wanted regardless of any court order banning him from going near his family or their home.

She said Knowles did not understand - or care - what he had put her or their children through.

"I feel he will never leave me alone … he thinks of me as his possession and that he should have complete control over me," she said.

"When I left … I initially felt a sense of liberation, however after two years of stalking, tailgating, unwanted visits, loitering in the garden at night, GPS tracking and following me everywhere, I feel anxious, stressed, paranoid - a sense of complete futility."

She said her children were also scared and anxious and they all had trouble sleeping, and nightmares that he was in their home with a knife trying to find them.

On the advice of family harm experts and advocates she had set up a "safe zone" in her home with internal locks which gave her a sense of "how much of a threat" Knowles was to her.

"His behaviour has been frightening … stalking and following us absolutely everywhere … I am fearful of what comes next," she told the court.

"I thought that after he was remanded in custody he might change his behaviour … but (his repeated breaches) shows he is unable and unwilling to abide by court orders.

"I fear for my safety."

Prosecutor Kerri Bell said Knowles was caught on the victim's CCTV camera "creeping" onto her property in the night a number of times - on two occasions fixing GPS trackers on her car.

Bell said the footage was "quite disturbing".

"It demonstrates a high level of psychological abuse, a high level of control … The lack of violence and contact here shouldn't minimise the offending," she told the court.
"This is a very clear case of very severe psychological abuse."

Defence lawyer Simon Shamy disagreed, saying the fact that there was "no violence, no threat of violence, no communication" meant the offending was "lower-level offending".

"He had no intention to intimidate her, no intention to threaten … because he's trying to hide himself," Shamy reasoned.

"What makes this offending serious … is the six offences and the tracking devices.

Bell sought a sentence of 18 to 22 months in prison for Knowles.

Judge Hix considered both sides before making his final decision.

He said the circumstances of the offending were "somewhat unusual" but the combination of repeated offending were "serious psychological abuse".

A psychologist who interviewed Knowles before sentencing said the offender claimed there was "no clear evidence he presented a risk of harm to ex wife or children" that he had now "come to terms with break-up" and did not feel he needed any further counselling.

Judge Hix said after reading the report he was satisfied that Knowles had changed his approach and was improving his attitude towards his family.

He said he needed to deter Knowles and others from further or similar offending and denounce his behaviour.

He said Knowles had spent some time behind bars after some of his offending and that had served the deterrence and denunciation factors of sentencing.

He felt the most appropriate sentence for Knowles was three months 'community detention.

Knowles will have a curfew during that time between 10pm and 5am.

The later curfew was so his contact with his children was not impeded.

The sentence upset his victim, who burst into tears as the judge wished Knowles well for his future.

DO YOU NEED HELP?

If you're in danger now:

  • Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
  • Run outside and head for where there are other people.
  • Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
  • Take the children with you.
  • Don't stop to get anything else.
  • If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

  • Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
  • Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
  • Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
  • It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz