A Tauranga woman who privately prosecuted a man who attacked her says she hopes it will show other victims that justice is attainable.
Mother of five Tamsin Trainor was at the Tauranga District Court on Monday afternoon for the sentencing of Neihana Rangitonga, who attacked her in a park in 2010.
She read a powerful, emotional victim impact statement.
“Our criminal justice system is complex and confusing at times and victims’ voices do get lost,” she said. “But through all that there is justice and there is access to that through strong advocates and dedicated lawyers.”
Rangitonga was sentenced to two years, four months imprisonment, to be served concurrently with a jail term he is already serving for a sexually motivated abduction of another woman in Mt Maunganui after the attack on Trainor. He yawned and shook his head while Trainor read her statement.
The case is seen as groundbreaking because it shows that charges can be re-laid after they have been withdrawn.
The Crown had originally charged Rangitonga with raping and wounding Trainor with intent, but dropped the wounding charge so the jury could focus on the rape. The jury acquitted him.
The deputy solicitor-general told Trainor that “it would be entirely inappropriate” to relay the wounding charge because Rangitonga had been told it had been dropped.
Trainor wouldn’t give up and, with the help of Shannon Parker from the New Zealand Police Conduct Association and lawyers working pro-bono, took a private prosecution, charging Rangitonga with injuring with intent.
The case was delayed for years as Rangitonga went all the way to the Court of Appeal to try to have the charge thrown out, which Trainor described as “cruel and selfish”. Finally, in February, he pleaded guilty.
He has previous convictions for assaulting women in 2003 and 2007.
Judge David Wilson said the attack on Trainor came out of the blue and involved extreme violence. He punched her about the head and held her throat until she lost consciousness.
The judge said were it not for the private prosecution, “these actions of yours would have gone unreviewed and unresponded”.
Trainor told the court she was “forever grateful to those who stepped up to help me through this process when I had felt so frustratingly helpless and alone. Those people who helped me with their skill and determination were able to give me a voice and power when I felt I had no hope.”
Addressing Rangitonga, she said: “Being your victim was easy … becoming your survivor was harder.
“Over the days, weeks and months following your assault on me I felt it difficult to comprehend that I was still actually alive. I felt spaced out because I couldn’t believe what had happened. I found myself drinking daily to feel anything that I recognised as real.”
She’d had to lie to her eldest daughter about why she had a sore face and blood in her eye.
“I have had my head so full of confusion and shock at what you did to me that, at times, I have been short tempered and unable to cope as I would have liked to with some of the challenges of raising my children.
“I have not asked for help some of the times I should have as I have tried my best to be independent, and now have an inherent fear of being perceived as vulnerable or needy.
“I have a way further to go to get my life and the lives of my children back where they should be, but I will get there. I do feel extremely angry at you for prolonging my journey to where I am now, finally, and certainly on the road to where my family and I deserve to be.”