Home D for aggravated robbery? Are the prisons really full?

Two 18-year-olds have been sentenced to home detention after one of them bashed Mr Lal in the head with an iron bar.

Mr Lal owns the Kingsland Dairy in Hikurangi, a small village just north of Whang?rei.

The shop is immaculate, with sparkling windows, grocery shelves stacked with military precision and an old-style display of sweets behind glass on the counter.

It was here that Eruera Wharerau, 18, whacked him on the head with a tyre iron and demanded cash last July.

Mr Lal ran from the shop and smashed the windscreen of the robbers’ car in a bid to foil their escape.

It did not work. He spent three days in hospital and suffered crippling headaches for months.

“In the head I was really badly hurt, at the back of my head it was all swollen.

So whacking someone in the head with a tyre iron doesn’t even get you a prison sentence anymore. ?

In 13 years, Mr Lal, who has two children, has been held up nine times.

Once was at gunpoint. In another, a robber slashed his elderly father’s hands with a knife as he cowered behind the counter.

Mr Lal fought back that time too, to defend his dad.

For his pains he was charged with assault – a charge that was later dropped.

The Hikurangi shopkeeper said the sentences handed down to those who robbed him over the years were clearly no deterrent to others.

It galled him to think the latest youths to have a crack at his life and livelihood would sit at home, on a benefit, while he continued to work.

“It’s a joke, it’s not enough, because they know they’re going to get away with it, that’s why they have done it. I want to know the public view, what does the public say? … But is it enough, doing something like that, hurting people who are working?”

One of the youths, described as the getaway driver, was sentenced in Kaikohe’s Matariki Court last week to five months of home detention.

I didn’t think the media had the guts to say?why this was at all possible. ?And then they surprised me.

The court is a pilot scheme for young M?ori offenders who are willing to plead guilty and take part in a restorative justice process – including a personal apology to the victim.