7 Dec 2017

Man jailed for armed robberies trying to feed family - court told

8:47 pm on 7 December 2017

A man who robbed three businesses in the Porirua area was trying to find money to support his family, the High Court in Wellington has been told.

Tamalii Ulutupu, 43, was sentenced today on a range of charges, including three aggravated robberies and unlawful possession of a firearm, and was jailed for eight years and four months.

In September last year, he and an accomplice went to the Clockwork Gold bar in Tawa, armed with an imitation pistol.

They made staff members lie on the floor and give up their cellphones, then forced one employee to open the safe, making off with $42,726.

The men also stole a staff member's wallet and car, along with two bottles of liquor.

Later that month Ulutupu and two other men robbed the Sand Bar in Porirua in daylight hours.

He was carrying a black imitation pistol and one of the other men was armed with a large machete.

Again a staff member was forced to open the safe and they stole $16,654.

And in November last year, Ulutupu went to the North City ten-pin bowling complex in Porirua armed with a rifle and a butcher's knife and stole about $12,000 and a staff member's car.

Justice Collins said some of Ulutupu's victims spoke of being traumatised and emotionally disturbed by the attacks.

"Although they didn't suffer significant physical injuries, the emotional and psychological harm was very difficult."

"It was good luck rather than good management that members of the public were not present during the daytime robbery.

Ulutupu's lawyer, Craig Smith, said his client had shown genuine remorse and had written apology letters to all the businesses involved, as well as to the sentencing judge, and had been willing to attend a restorative justice meeting with his victims.

He said Ulutupu also had strong support from his wife.

"She is utterly disappointed and heartbroken that he has done this. They have had difficulties in the past but nothing like this. "

Mr Smith said his client was ready to fully accept the consequences of his offending and would find any sentence a just one.

Ten victims had given statements to the court about how they had been affected by the robberies.

Justice Collins said one of them referred to thinking it "might be the end" for him.

Others spoke of the pain of being kicked in the ribs, and hit on the head, along with the financial cost and stress the ordeal had placed on relationships.

He said a probation report showed Ulutupu remained at a high risk of harming others.

"You showed remorse and insight into the impact [your offending had] on the victims, but said you knew the consequences of offending and made the decision to offend knowing that."

The judge said there were many aggravating features in Ulutupu's offending.

"You were wearing a balaclava on three occasions and also gloves and carrying an imitation pistol in the first two robberies. Despite being imitation, it is still regarded as an offensive weapon."

Crown lawyer Erin Fitzherbert sought a minimum period of imprisonment for Ulutupu and Justice Collins agreed to that, ordering Ulutupu spend at least three years and four months behind bars before being eligible for parole.