The judge described the attack on a mum holding her child as disgraceful and demeaning. Photo / 123rf
Two friends intent on revenge barged into a woman’s house and shaved her head as she held her toddler.
Both have now avoided conviction, while the victim was too afraid to leave her house for six months because she was so traumatised.
Shayle Joass pleaded guilty to her part in the crime in 2021, while co-accused Agnes Pene was found guilty at a judge-alone trial.
However, both were discharged without conviction.
The Whangārei District Court heard last week that the pair devised the plan and decided to shave the woman’s hair “because it would last longer than giving her a hiding”.
Pene and Joass drove to the victim’s house and entered the property through the back door with a set of shavers, when the woman was alone with her child.
Pene restrained the woman as Joass verbally abused her and shaved her head, leaving the victim with several missing clumps of hair and a cut scalp.
It was alleged the friends were hellbent on revenge against the victim because of a relationship she was having with Joass’ ex-boyfriend.
Crown prosecutor Ally Tupuola did not agree that a discharge without conviction was appropriate and said the offending was at the upper level.
“The court must recognise the significant impact this has had on [the victim] and her child,” Tupuolo said.
In a victim impact statement read in court by Tupuolo, the mother talked about the extreme post-traumatic stress disorder she had suffered along with a sleeping disorder, extreme social anxiety and several issues with her child.
“To have people enter your house while you are the only one there, trying to protect my toddler was terrifying.
“Due to the assault, I was not able to step into public places for at least six months, and my child has since developed anxiety and behavioural issues.
“It has been a long, traumatising three years and to this day, it still gives me anxiety. It’s a battle each day and I can only take one day at a time.”
Lawyer for Pene, Wayne McKean, argued that as his client was a single mother and worked in the education space as a kaiārahi (mentor), a conviction would severely impact her career and ability to provide for her family.
Pene was given the opportunity to express her remorse openly in court to the victim, who was visibly shaking and upset.
“I’m disgusted by my actions and really am truly sorry that your baby had to witness the trauma. Things could have been different and no mother should have to experience that,” Pene said.
Judge Taryn Bayley said Pene had initially lied to police about her involvement in the crime and continued to deny it by telling report writers her only role was as the driver to the location.
“Towards the latter stage of the assault, the victim became overpowered and was outnumbered. It goes, without saying, this episode was disgraceful and demeaning and to unfold in front of a child, adds to its seriousness.”
Despite those factors, Judge Bayley found a conviction on Pene would significantly impact her ability to provide for her children and the discharge without conviction was granted.