Murder – minor provocation, life imprisonment with minimum non-parole period of 10 years
R v Kipa  NZHC 1642 per Venning J.
The defendant, Bradford Damien Kipa, pleaded guilty to the murder of John Ioane. In sentencing Kipa, the court considered two submissions put forward by defence counsel: that a sentence of life imprisonment was manifestly unjust and, if it was not, then what the minimum non-parole period should be.
Kipa had been in a relationship for 10 years and got married three months before the murder. Ioane was a colleague of Kipa’s wife. The pair had met at work in December 2020 and had an intimate relationship, of which Kipa was aware.
On 23 August 2021, Kipa was drinking alcohol at his Panmure home where his wife and mother-in-law were present. He confronted his wife about her relationship with Ioane and she admitted kissing another man. Kipa became angry and an argument ensued. During the argument, Kipa’s wife was texting in a work group chat. Kipa forcibly took the phone from her and smashed it against the wall.
Later that evening, Kipa’s wife used her work phone to message Ioane. She told him Kipa had broken her phone and she had admitted to cheating on him. She also told Ioane that Kipa had hit her. Ioane asked if she was ok, saying he would come and pick her up. She told him not to. Kipa saw that she was texting and grabbed the phone. He arranged for Ioane to meet him.
When Ioane arrived at the property, Kipa was waiting with a 32 cm knife with a 19.5 cm blade. He confronted Ioane and an argument ensued. Kipa stabbed Ioane nine times in the face and body, including a fatal blow to his abdomen that punctured his lung and aorta.
Kipa rang 111 but hung up after two minutes and called his sister and confessed to the stabbing. Kipa’s wife called an ambulance and unsuccessfully tried to revive Ioane. When the police arrived, Kipa confessed to stabbing Ioane.
Defence counsel submitted that Kipa’s offending was more akin to manslaughter than murder and sought a sentence of 12- or 13-years’ imprisonment with a minimum period of eight years, rather than life imprisonment. The Crown sought a sentence of life imprisonment.
Evidence was put forward that Kipa was mentally impaired at the time of the frenzied attack, which reduced his culpability. However, the court said any condition Kipa may have had fell well short of the severity needed to avoid a manifestly unjust sentence of life imprisonment.
On the issue of provocation, defence counsel argued the combination of discovering his wife’s infidelity, Ioane’s provocative communication, and the recognition of the deceased reduced Kipa’s culpability.
Exceptional circumstances involving a high level of provocation are required to warrant a sentence of less than life imprisonment. Venning J found the attack was prolonged, deliberate and disproportionate to the provocation of his wife’s infidelity.
In finding life imprisonment wasn’t manifestly unjust, the court turned to setting Kipa’s minimum non-parole period. With a starting point of 12 years, Kipa was entitled to a discount for pleading guilty. However, Venning J said the credit must be tempered by the fact the plea came over a year after Kipa was charged and only two weeks before trial. Discounts for expressing genuine remorse and limited time spent on electronically monitored bail were also given. The statutory 10-year minimum was deemed appropriate.
Held: A sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years.