A vineyard worker with a mental impairment mistakenly thought a woman was his girlfriend when he forced himself on her, a court has heard.
Samoan man Faalo Hala, 22, met a German woman staying at the same backpackers in Marlborough in 2015.
A summary of facts said despite a language barrier the woman was “always kind and smiling” towards Hala, and he started to think they were in a relationship.
He told the woman he loved her, and she smiled and thought he was sweet, not realising he thought she was his girlfriend, the summary said.
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He tried to kiss her, but she pushed him away.
The following night, the woman was getting ready for bed when she went to brush her teeth.
She saw Hala sitting in the kitchen by himself which she thought was odd, and walked into the women’s bathroom.
Hala interpreted her glance as an invitation for his sexual advances, the summary said.
He followed her into the bathroom. The woman was brushing her teeth when Hala pushed her up against the wall and pulled up her dress, kissing her.
She told him to let her go, but he said “please, please, please”. He then violated her.
She suggested they stop and continue tomorrow in an attempt to end the situation, so he kissed her and left.
The woman was distressed and called police straight away.
Hala was charged with indecent assault and sexual violation, which he initially denied.
However he changed his plea to guilty before the trial started.
He appeared for sentencing at the Blenheim District Court on Tuesday.
A pre-sentencing report explained that Hala had a head injury in car accident when he was young and it affected his ability to reason, which lowered his culpability.
Cultural differences could have been a contributing factor, it said.
The report recommended a sentence of home detention.
The woman said in a victim impact report she did not want the man to go to jail.
She accepted he was just confused and felt he was a good person, she said in the statement.
But Hala’s actions did affect her and she still had issues because of it, she said.
Defence lawyer Tony Bamford and Crown prosecutor Ruth Thomas agreed home detention was suitable.
His minister and his employer would support him through the sentence, Bamford said.
“This is a very serious incident,” Judge Tony Zohrab said.
“She should have been free to go about her toileting without you forcing yourself upon her.”
Bamford said it was likely Hala would be deported after serving his sentence, and he could even be shunned back home for “bringing shame to his village”.
Hala did not have any previous convictions.
After credit for his guilty plea, lack of history, and mitigating factors, Judge Zohrab sentenced him to 11 months’ home detention.