By Tom Kitchin, Stuff
A soldier has been sentenced to nearly a month’s detention after he hit another soldier in the back of the head with a rifle, and squeezed another man’s neck until he could not breathe.
Lance Corporal Manu Taufa, 40, appeared before the Court Martial of New Zealand at Burnham Military Camp, south of Christchurch, on Thursday.
Taufa was sentenced to 28 days detention in the Services Corrective Establishment, a military jail at Burnham.
He would be demoted to private, the lowest non-commissioned rank, and while in detention would lose 50 per cent of the pay of a private.
Judge Kevin Riordan said the court could have dismissed him from service, but chose not to. He said Taufa would soon resign from the military to become a rugby coach in China.
Taufa pleaded guilty to two charges of common assault, and one charge each of injuring with reckless disregard for the safety of others and assault with a weapon.
The offending happened between January and April 2016 at Burnham and Tekapo military camps.
One victim had to have surgery after Taufa kicked him in the back when he joked with an officer about a style of military haircut. The victim had prior back problems, but they got worse and he had to have surgery.
The victim, who cannot be named, told the hearing in his victim impact statement he had “never seen manipulation of this magnification”.
“I have a lot of questions, my main one will always be ‘what have I done to deserve this?'”
In another incident, Taufa hit a soldier wearing a helmet in the back of the head with a steyr rifle.
Another time, he kicked a soldier to the ground and squeezed his neck for 10 seconds, leaving him unable to breathe, after the man mistakenly discharged a gun.
Reading out a statement in court, Taufa said: “I will regret this every day for the rest of my life. I love each and every one of my brothers, I wish them every success in life.”
The prosecutor for the director of military prosecutions, Major Matt McGrath, recommended a short sentence of detention and dismissal from military service.
Defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger argued Taufa should not be dismissed as he planned to resign and dismissal would be negative for his future. She also said there were delays in bringing the matter before the court, so asked for credit in the sentence.
The Defence Force could not provide a reasonable excuse for the delays and Judge Riordan said it should have been dealt with earlier.
The judge told Taufa every case was a “gross overreaction to the events”.
“Violence to subordinates is destructive of trust,” he said.
“The court wishes to emphasise to you and everybody else that is this not the way to go about being a non-commissioned officer.”
Taufa left the room with tears in his eyes.
He joined the army in May 2001 and had seven medals, including two for service in Afghanistan and East Timor.
He had been disciplined before for an assault with an axe in 2012 and was demoted from Corporal to Lance Corporal. He did not receive any pyschological treatment after that incident.