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'I can't send this man to jail': Judge's conundrum in sentencing machete attacker

Author
Belinda Feek,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Jan 2024, 6:46PM
Hamilton man Jaden Minhinnick attacked the victim twice with a machete, cutting his ear and breaking the man's arm, in the incident on their shared driveway. Image / 123rf
Hamilton man Jaden Minhinnick attacked the victim twice with a machete, cutting his ear and breaking the man's arm, in the incident on their shared driveway. Image / 123rf

'I can't send this man to jail': Judge's conundrum in sentencing machete attacker

Author
Belinda Feek,
Publish Date
Thu, 18 Jan 2024, 6:46PM

Despite leaving his neighbour with grizzly injuries from a machete - an earlobe sliced off and a broken arm - a 21-year-old man has avoided a likely jail term due to his young age and otherwise unblemished criminal history.

Judge Paul Mabey KC found himself in a conundrum during the sentencing of Jaden Minhinnick in the Hamilton District Court today.

On the one hand, he had gruesome photographs of the victim’s injuries, his ongoing suffering, the overall seriousness of the attack and likely public expectation to put the attacker in jail “and throw away the key”.

On the other, he had a young man who up until the age of 20 had led a crime-free life.

But Judge Mabey was not keen to send Minhinnick to jail, where the consequences of him possibly being forced to join a gang would be more damaging to society in the long term.

“Applying proper sentencing principles, I couldn’t send this man to jail,” he told counsel.

‘Growing, intense conflict’

The court heard there had been “growing, intense conflict” between Minhinnick and his Hamilton neighbour leading up to the incident.

The pair shared a driveway and continued to have difficulties “residing peacefully in exercising their respective rights to the driveway”, given there would always be times when each needed to use it, court documents stated.

On this particular day, the victim and his family arrived home after being away to find Minhinnick and his friends working on a vehicle in the driveway, blocking it.

The victim’s partner approached Minhinnick, who was 20 at the time, and his friend to see if the family could pass and was told to “Get f***** b****” and that they wouldn’t be moving.

She returned to the car and the victim got out and approached Minhinnick and threatened him, saying, “If you don’t move I will kill you”.

He told police he said that in an attempt to persuade the men to shift their vehicle. It was unsuccessful.

The victim then walked past the men and picked up two empty beer bottles before smashing them and approaching Minhinnick and his friend, telling police he did that as he was outnumbered and felt he needed protection.

He didn’t wave the broken bottles around but as the man stood there Minhinnick went to his car and grabbed a machete.

Minhinnick approached the victim and swung the machete down on the left side of his neck.

He suffered “a very significant” gash to the lower side of his face, his ear lobe was severed and the gash travelled from behind his left ear across his cheek almost to the point of his jaw.

In a state of shock and in a bid to create some space between them, the victim threw the bottles at Minhinnick and then threw another two that he found nearby.

Meanwhile, Minhinnick was still waving the machete around before again bringing it down on the victim toward his head.

The victim managed to put his arm up to protect his head but suffered a wound so deep it broke his arm.

Minhinnick then said to his mate, “Shall I kill his family too?” but the friend managed to talk him out of it and they left the property.

Minhinnick’s counsel Ted Walsh was keen to keep his client out of prison, adding he was remorseful for what happened.

Crown prosecutor Paige Noorland said while there might be remorse, he hadn’t shown insight into his actions.

But Judge Mabey said prison was only issued as a last resort, and while the victim impact was extreme, a key sentencing principle was rehabilitation.

“When it comes to young people ... they are more amenable, malleable to rehabilitation and imprisonment could have a more damaging affect.

“I can’t justify imprisoning this man.”

He expected the public would want him to jail Minhinnick, especially if they saw the photos - which he didn’t release to media - and if he was 10 years older he would have.

Judge Mabey also contemplated a secondary sentence of community work, but decided against that given the possibility of “rubbing shoulders with the wrong people”.

Instead, he sentenced Minhinnick to 10 months’ home detention with nine months’ post-release conditions.

Belinda Feek is an Open Justice reporter based in Waikato. She has worked at NZME for eight years and been a journalist for 19.

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