A man has been sent to prison for an assault on a Family Court lawyer in a courthouse elevator that was so brutal the victim played dead.
"It happened so fast... The force [of the blows] was unrelenting and I just wanted it to stop," Brintyn Smith said in a victim impact statement read to the Whangārei District Court.
Smith, who did not attend Friday's sentencing of 35-year-old Isaac Aydon for the attack that left the lawyer unable to work, detailed feeling so scared while trapped in the elevator and taking multiple blows to the left side of his head that he pretended to be dead.
"When the elevator doors opened, I could hear people screaming and shouting.
"I vividly recall the sheer panic of people around me and seeing and feeling a lot of blood... and the smell," his statement said.
The court heard Aydon was on the second floor of the busy courthouse about 9.50am on 9 March, hanging around the lift area, as five courts were about to get under way for the day.
Below on the ground floor, Smith caught the elevator to the second floor and was about to exit as the doors opened.
At that moment Aydon launched himself at Smith, punching him in the face and knocking him backwards into the lift in an unprovoked attack.
The doors closed behind him, blocking Smith from exiting the lift, and Aydon punched his victim in the face and head, rendering him semi-conscious.
Smith had to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance and suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured sternum, nose and thyroid, extensive bruising to the face and a concussion.
He has since reassigned all his Family Court files and had to bring on another lawyer to oversee his employees.
"I am unable to cope with the triggers associated with emails, phone calls, or anything to do with work. I have panic attacks, deep fears of elevators and anything that looks like a court building.
"I don't have any intention of working in Whangārei in the future. My practice is under strain, affecting my employees, and my two sons have lost their dad. They are the innocent victims of this awful attack."
Smith still suffers from memory loss, an inability to complete simple daily tasks, and would possibly require ongoing surgery.
Judge Brooke Gibson told Aydon the charge of assault he was earlier convicted of was "undercooked" and he was fortunate not to be sentenced on more serious charges.
Aydon was represented by lawyer David Sayes, who said his client had no record and this was the first time he had ever been before the courts.
"Something snapped for my client. What happened, happened, and what happened was very bad," Sayes said.
Sayes, a lawyer of the Whangārei court for 30 years, disagreed with the police position that because a lawyer was the target of the assault, Aydon should be sent to prison.
"There shouldn't be a special situation here simply because we come here to work.
"There wasn't a lawyer here who wasn't moved by this incident and we all enjoy the commonality of being a lawyer.
"I want to say on behalf of myself, we wish the victim a speedy recovery and hope he will one day be in a position to come back," Sayes said.
But Judge Gibson did not accept home detention as an option for Aydon given the aggravating features of the case.
"He [Smith] was ambushed... it was sudden, completely unexpected and he was trapped ... Lawyers are entitled to a measure of safety and protection as they are vulnerable when they are in public areas and can be easily attacked," the judge said.
Judge Gibson sentenced Aydon to two years and seven months' imprisonment.
Smith, whose family, friends and colleagues packed the public gallery of the courtroom, said later he was pleased the case was over and he could now focus on his recovery.
"I think the court has given a sentence that sends a clear message that it's not appropriate to target people doing their jobs."
He acknowledged everyone's support during a difficult period in his life.