'Systematic deprivation': Man avoids jail for causing death of partner

Author
Northern Advocate,
Publish Date
Tue, 22 Jun 2021, 11:03AM
Trudi Ruffiner died after she fell off the roof of a car being driver by her partner Phillip Takimoana while trying to stop him from driving. (Photo / Supplied)
Trudi Ruffiner died after she fell off the roof of a car being driver by her partner Phillip Takimoana while trying to stop him from driving. (Photo / Supplied)

'Systematic deprivation': Man avoids jail for causing death of partner

Author
Northern Advocate,
Publish Date
Tue, 22 Jun 2021, 11:03AM

Phillip Takimoana went to jail for causing the death of his partner - a sentence that has turned to home detention after a High Court appeal heard how systematic deprivation contributed to his offending.

Kerikeri kindergarten teacher Trudi Ruffiner died after falling from the roof of a car driven by Takimoana following an argument in a Northland hotel.

He appealed to the High Court against his two-year and two-month sentence, principally on the grounds that the starting point of four years adopted by the sentencing judge in the Kaikohe District Court was too high and the discount for his personal circumstances too low.

The High Court agreed, quashed his prison term and substituted it with a sentence of nine months' home detention.

Takimoana, a worker at Affco in Moerewa, had an argument at the Ohaeawai Hotel on the evening of November 6, 2019, with Ruffiner, his partner.

She wanted to socialise at the hotel bar while he preferred a quiet evening after finishing a 10-hour shift.

Takimoana chose to leave and as he started the car, she climbed on to the bonnet and then on the roof as he drove away.

He was a disqualified driver at the time.

The judge accepted at a disputed facts hearing prior to sentencing that Takimoana was unsure whether Ruffiner was still on the roof of the car but found he should have stopped to check.

The Judge ruled the car did not leave the carpark at speed, even if the tyres skidded on loose gravel, and that Takimoana did not deliberately swerve to dislodge Ruffiner from the roof of the car.

On appeal, Justice Ailsa Duffy ruled that the correct starting point should have been three years and seven months to reach an end sentence of one year and 11 months.

Phillip Takimoana and his partner had an argument in the Ohaeawai Hotel shortly before she died after falling off the car he was driving. (Photo / Peter de Graaf)

Justice Duffy said there was enough in the pre-sentence report to suggest that systematic Māori deprivation had played a part in his offending.

Takimoana's family background included early exposure to his parents' alcohol and drug abuse as well as a mix of violence by others associated with him, she said.

His family background, she said, together with his criminal history reflect the classic outcomes of systemic deprivation such as having a childhood marred by such parents, exposure to violence when young, criminal offending beginning at an early age, own history of alcohol abuse, gang affiliation, and domestic violence.

"This is not a case of excessive risk-taking or dangerous driving. It was an error of judgment with disastrous consequences for Ms Ruffiner. It is a case where denunciation and deterrence need to be balanced with compassion and a focus on Mr Takimoana's rehabilitation," Justice Duffy said.

Takimoana's disqualification from driving for two years and six months still stands.

- by Imran Ali, Northern Advocate