Queenstown strangler escapes jail time

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A young Queenstown man who strangled his girlfriend to the point of unconsciousness has narrowly escaped jail.
 
Ryan Christopher O’Keefe, 21 has today (Monday) been sentenced to nine months’ home detention after a brutal attack on his girlfriend while they were in bed together. 

Queenstown District Court heard that O’Keefe strangled the woman just days after he’d been sentenced for another, separate violent assault on her. The couple had been in a relationship for five years. 

O’Keefe – who’d previously pleaded guilty to the charge of assault with intent to injure – appeared emotionless during sentencing before Judge John Clapham today. 

On December 18, O’Keefe and the woman had been out drinking in town, the court heard. 

When they got home, an argument between the pair began while they were in bed. O’Keefe put his hand around the victim’s throat and squeezed it, till she became unconscious. The victim had visible strangulation marks around her throat and was admitted to hospital to check for brain damage. Scan results were normal. 

Defence lawyer Roger Eagles appealed for a sentence of community detention because O’Keefe needed support for problems with heavy drinking, gambling, self-harm, and loneliness and sense of isolation. 

“He’s very young and he’s quite capable of getting his life back on track if the right actions are taken.” 

Crown lawyer Michael Morris wanted a prison sentence of two- to two-and-a-half years. 

Judge Clapham says he thought that period of jail time was appropriate but mitigating factors such as an early guilty plea discounted the period to 18 months. But applying the law, he was bound to impose the “least restrictive outcome” to O’Keefe – which meant he got a home detention sentence instead. 

O’Keefe must also pay $1500 reparation for emotional harm and a protection order has been served.