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‘Intellectual deficits and likely alcoholism’ contributed to murder of partner, judge finds

2 Jun 2023

| Author: Jamie Dierick

Murder – sentencing – sentencing starting point – starting point of life imprisonment 13 years, six months’ minimum period of imprisonment – discount of one year for late guilty plea – discount of nine months for personal circumstances – final sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum period of imprisonment of 11 years, nine months  

R v Vi [2023] NZHC 1118 (Downs J)

Peter Vi pleaded guilty to the murder of Georgina Nagataki on 1 March 2023, following a sentencing indication given on February 2023.

Vi and Nagataki had been in a relationship since around 2018, one which Downs J described as “punctuated by arguments and violence”. The two lived in separate units in a block of flats in Hamilton.

On 27 April 2021, the pair got into an argument, resulting in Vi striking Nagataki in the face, rendering her unconscious. Their relationship continued after this.

On 22 September 2021, Vi and Nagataki got into another argument, which was heard by neighbours. One went to investigate and discovered Vi “hunched over Ngataki, striking her with both arms”.

Police were called, but they took some time to find the correct unit. During this time, Vi returned to his flat to change his clothing and returned to Nagataki’s flat. In his interview with the police, Vi stated that Nagataki had caused the injuries herself by banging her head on a table.

Police later entered Nagataki’s unit and discovered her unconscious with blood around her head and on cushions. She was taken to hospital and had surgery, but passed away two days later. The cause of her death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Vi’s lawyer abandoned his submission that his client should not be sentenced to life imprisonment, and this sentence was imposed.

The judge identified four aggravating factors in the offending: the magnitude of violence, breach of trust, Vi’s actions during and after the offending, and Vi’s previous assault on Nagataki. Downs J said these aggravating factors meant that Vi’s case was more serious than those for which the presumptive 10-year minimum period of imprisonment applies.

While Mr Vi had some violence-related previous convictions, they dated back 13 years so Downs J did not impose an uplift. The judge imposed a starting point of a minimum period of 13 years, 6 months’ imprisonment

Downs J deducted one year from the minimum period of imprisonment for the late guilty plea. He said Vi’s background, intellectual deficits, and likely alcoholism contributed to the circumstances surrounding the murder. These factors provided a “modest attenuation of culpability”. As such, a further nine months’ was deducted for personal circumstances.

Held: Mr Vi received life imprisonment with a minimum period of 11 years, 9 months.

R v VI 2023-NZHC-1118



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