‘Out of it’ basher of elderly at Gibbston concert gets home detention

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Four people – including an elderly couple – attacked by an “out of it” concert-goer in Gibbston continue to battle psychological scarring, with one victim believing her husband was “going to be killed in front of her eyes”.
 
Judge Michael Turner sentenced Simon John Windle, 34, to 12 months’ home detention and ordered him to pay $10,000 in emotional harm and reparation payments to victims, Warren and Irene Thompson and David and Sue Merry. 

Windle, a linesman from Gore, had previously admitted injuring Mrs Merry with intent, assaulting Mr and Mrs Thompson with intent and assaulting Mr Merry. 

Judge Turner read excerpts from the victim impact statements – and the court heard how an afternoon of delight for the foursome at the outdoor concert on February 15 turned to terror. 

Mr and Mrs Thompson, aged 70 and 69 respectively, of Dunedin, were travelling towards Dunedin about 6pm, pulling off the state highway to adjust a load on their trailer. 

Windle was seen “staggering” down the middle of the road in traffic, shouting and gesturing as he went. 

Mr Thompson was concerned for his safety and suggested he sit down out of harm’s way. 

After inquiring what his religion was and “muttering something about Allah”, Windle began punching Mr Thompson, who suffers from chronic arthritis, about the head and face and pushed him into the driver’s side door of his car with sufficient force to dent the panel. 

Mrs Thompson got out of the car – feeling like her husband was “going to be killed in front of her eyes” –
 and told Windle to stop. He then began punching her with such force she was knocked over the tow bar on to the road. 

Both suffered bruising to their faces, arms and legs. 

Mr Thompson said he was “deeply affected” by the incident and was particularly distressed at seeing his wife of 50 years attacked, being unable to assist her, saying he felt “like a four-year-old boy”. 

For Mrs Thompson, the most significant trauma was psychological – she still saw Windle’s face in her mind’s eye, the court heard. 

“Maybe one day this person will be a 70-year-old man and not enjoying good health. He may then recall how it feels to be set upon by a 34-year-old alcohol-fuelled idiot,” Mrs Thompson’s statement said. 

After running from the Thompsons, Windle encountered Mr and Mrs Merry, of Christchurch, who are in their 50s. 

After swinging at Mr Merry, who ducked but fell over, he turned his attention to Mrs Merry, punching her “at least once” to the face. 

Windle was restrained by security staff and others, but Mrs Merry suffered injuries including a broken eye socket, requiring surgery to have a titanium plate and screws inserted, and risked losing the sight in her right eye. 

She suffered ongoing numbness and pressure. She had been told the nerves would “hopefully” regenerate and normal sensation would return in time. 

“It’s still hard to comprehend going from having enjoyed a great concert at a wonderful setting … to being violently attacked and terrorised,” Mrs Merry’s statement said. 

When spoken to by police, Windle could recall nothing after going to the bathroom. 

Defence counsel Bill Dawkins said regardless of “which team you’re on, this is serious offending”, but sought for Judge Turner to sentence on the purpose and principles of the Act, rather than the sense of “outrage”. 

“It’s a case which does stir up the emotion when one reads it,” Dawkins said. 

“There is no defence … but he was almost in a world of his own the way he acted that particular day. [It was] inexplicable behaviour [but] he’s done everything he can since.” 

Judge Turner told the court Windle had consumed about a litre of bourbon “mixed with another substance”. 

Before the incidents, he went to the toilets and had a cannabis cigarette with an unknown male. 

While cannabis was detected in his system, it was “possible” he was also affected by a synthetic substance, given his behaviour. 

A presentence report indicated his risk of reoffending was low. However, his risk of harming others was “medium”. 

Alcohol use or abuse was “probable”, given he drank to get drunk most weekends, but he had since sought help for that, Judge Turner said. 

“It’s unfortunate there needed to be four victims of a violent outburst before you came to the realisation you needed to do something about your drinking problem.” 

Judge Turner believed Windle’s remorse was genuine and mitigating factors included his willingness to engage in a restorative justice programme and money made available to make emotional harm and reparation payments. 

But the attacks were viewed seriously, given their unprovoked nature and the victims’ ages and because he attacked the head area.

Taking aggravating and mitigating factors into account, Judge Turner said the starting point was 37 months’ imprisonment. 

“On one hand, the extremely violent nature of your attacks against vulnerable, innocent and elderly members of the community calls for a [strong] response. 

“What persuaded me to grant you home detention is the fact that you have not previously appeared before the court … you’re willing to deal with issues of drugs and alcohol use.” 

Windle was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention for injuring Mrs Merry with intent and ordered to pay her $5500 in emotional harm reparation. 

For the attacks on Mr and Mrs Thompson, he was sentenced to two months’ home detention and ordered to pay each $2000, and for assaulting Mr Merry he was sentenced to two months’ home detention and ordered to pay $500. 

All home detention sentences were concurrent. – Otago Daily Times