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'This behaviour warrants the accountability': Man involved in road rage death won't get HD to care for kids

Hazel Osborne,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 Sep 2023, 2:33PM

'This behaviour warrants the accountability': Man involved in road rage death won't get HD to care for kids

Hazel Osborne,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 Sep 2023, 2:33PM

A solo dad involved in a fatal road-rage brawl has had his sentence reduced on appeal. But, he’ll remain behind bars despite his bid for home detention so he could care for his children, whose mother died in a car accident.

Benjamin Sweeney’s sentence of two years and two months has been reduced by 10 percent after the court found the sentencing Judge should have given a discount in the interests of his two children.

However, those interests were not strong enough for the father of two to spend the rest of his sentence at home.

 “We are satisfied that the interests of the children, in this case, do not tip the balance far enough to make home detention the least restrictive sentence that is appropriate in the circumstances of this serious violent offending.” the decision read.

“This behaviour warrants the accountability, denunciation, deterrence, and protection of the community that is afforded by imprisonment.”

Sweeney, 32, appealed his sentence of two years and two months in July, handed down for his part in a violent attack that led to Anthony Bell’s death.

His successful appeal comes three months after he was sentenced in the High Court at Hamilton alongside his cousin Frank Sweeny, the man who dealt the fatal blow to the unarmed father of six.

Bell’s death followed an attack outside of a petrol station in Ōtorohanga where a road rage incident between the sweeny cousins, and Bell and his brothers, came to a violent crescendo.

Sweeny and Frank came across the Te Kūiti man and his brothers while driving south from Te Awamatu to Ōtorohanga in the early evening.

What exactly happened when the two vehicles crossed paths was a matter of contention at the cousins’ trial, but Justice Mathew Downs said he had no doubt the Sweeneys were the aggressors, tailgating Bell’s car.

He also said he had no doubt that those in Bell’s vehicle returned the aggression and by the time they arrived in Ōtorohanga “everyone wanted to fight”.

During the altercation, Sweeney punched Bell twice in the head, knocking him to the ground where he then punched and kicked him in the head again. He stomped on Bell’s head as he tried to get up.

Violence continued, including Sweeney striking Bell’s brother in the back with a hammer, but his cousin Frank would deliver the blow that killed Bell, a 153kg man.

Sweeney was given two years and two months behind bars by Justice Matthew Downs on charges of assault with a weapon and assault with intent to injure.

Justice Downs declined his bid for home detention at the time citing his continued propensity for violence.

Lawyer Nick Chisnall advocated for Sweeny to receive a sentence of home detention on appeal, stating Sweeney’s two children were dependent on his care after his wife, their mother, had died in a car crash.

Chisnall also said his client’s remorse wasn’t taken into consideration.

It was accepted by the court there should have been a discount in the interests of Sweeney’s two young children, but agreed with the decision of the sentencing judge who did not factor in remorse.

“Mr Sweeney appears to continue to hold to the view that his actions in the offending were justified and has not expressed remorse for the offences of which he was convicted,” the decision said.

“Given this, we do not consider that the Judge erred in declining to discount Mr Sweeney’s sentence for remorse.”

Sweeney’s children are currently in the care of their grandparents.

Hazel Osborne is an Open Justice reporter for NZME and is based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington. She joined the Open Justice team at the beginning of 2022, previously working in Whakatāne as a court and crime reporter in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

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