Player sent to jail

A representative rugby player and his teammates taunted and whistled at a woman before he followed her to a secluded area and tried to rape her.

Mid Canterbury player Kolinio Yabia Tamanitoakula, 25, appeared in Gisborne District Court yesterday and was jailed for three years, four months and two weeks after pleading guilty to a charge of assault with intent to commit sexual violation.

The attack on the woman happened in the Gisborne CBD about 4am on October 2 last year, the morning after Tamanitoakula’s Ashburton-based team played East Coast in Ruatoria.

Tamanitoakula and his teammates yelled and whistled at the woman as she walked through the city centre on her own.

As she turned and walked toward the Fitzherbert Street Bridge, Tamanitoakula called out to her. She ignored him and kept walking.

As she crossed the bridge he grabbed her and pushed her down some steps into Kelvin Park, where he forced her to the ground and began kissing her.

Despite her protestations he forced his hand down her top then pulled down her trousers.

When Tamanitoakula was distracted by a passing motorist the woman struggled away from him and ran on to the road in front of a car.

She was extremely distressed and covered in wet grass and mud. She told the man driving the car that someone had tried to rape her. The man dropped her in front of the Gisborne police station. As she waited outside the station she saw Tamanitoakula walking down Gladstone Road. She identified him to a member of the public, who chased him, but lost him.

A short time later a police dog handler tracked Tamanitoakula from the scene to the Portside Apartments, where his team was staying.

CCTV footage showed Tamanitoakula in the CBD area after the attack and entering the Portside Apartments. A short time later he was found in one of the rooms. His clothing had mud and grass on it.

Tamanitoakula initially told police he had been a “nice man” and had walked with the woman into the park, but she ran away. Later he admitted taking her pants down but “she didn’t want it” so he got up and walked away.

He told police he’d been drinking “heaps” on the night.

Tamanitoakula’s lawyer Leighvi Maynard urged Judge Warren Cathcart to take account of his client’s previous good character.

He had no previous convictions in New Zealand or his home of Fiji, where he “was a very positive member of his church”, Maynard said.

Maynard acknowledged the pain Tamanitoakula caused his victim was “indefensible” but his behaviour had been “utterly out of character for him”.

He had been “out with the team and clearly intoxicated” and was extremely remorseful, Maynard said.

Tamanitoakula had been supporting his mother in Fiji and now “his promising rugby career is effectively at an end”, he said.

He would now be deported back to Fiji, Maynard said.

Crown prosecutor Jo Rielly said it was clear Tamanitoakula now had insight into his offending and accepted he was genuinely remorseful, but said the offending had a major impact on his victim.

Judge Cathcart said it was “a very serious offence”. He said the victim impact statement showed the incident had a “devastating effect on the victim” who now felt unsafe going out at night.

She felt reluctant to talk about the incident that she has to relive every time she passes the scene of the assault, Cathcart said.

He accepted Tamanitoakula had a previous clean record and that he was a valued member of his church.

But while he had expressed remorse, Tamanitoakula’s pre-sentence report indicated he had little insight into his offending.

“While you may be expressing remorse… it lacks real insight for the offending,” Cathcart said.

A cultural report raised no factors that warranted a discount to his sentence, and any suggestion that culture provided some explanation for an assault such as this was “repugnant”.

Cathcart said there was a need to deter this sort of conduct before sentencing Tamanitoakula to a prison term of three years, four months and two weeks

Tamanitoakula was immediately taken out of the team environment following the incident with Mid-Canterbury Rugby chief executive Ian Patterson and New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew saying they were appalled and shocked by his actions.

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