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Man in Terrace Tunnel standoff sentenced to community detention

A man who perched on top of Wellington’s Terrace Tunnel for 10 hours causing traffic gridlock has been granted permanent name suppression and sentenced to community detention.

The Terrace Tunnel in Wellington was closed off during the incident earlier this year. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

The 32-year-old previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and unlawful possession of a knife.

In sentencing in the Wellington District Court today – and aided by an interpreter – the judge said on 3 January the man drove the wrong way on the southbound lane of the motorway into the capital, before hitting another car.

The judge said fortunately no one was injured.

He said the man – carrying a knife – then climbed over safety barriers onto beams above the tunnel where he remained for hours.

During the incident, more than 20 police staff – including the armed offenders squad, police negotiators and dog teams – assisted in negotiations with the man to come down from the tunnel.

Four double decker buses were parked underneath him to reduce the distance he could fall.

The man eventually came down after speaking with a family member and was arrested.

The judge said the man’s actions caused “significant disruption for an extended period of time”, and that he exposed himself “and other road users to significant danger”.

A great deal of time and resources were required to resolve the matter peacefully, he said.

However, he said the man’s mental health was fragile and it was clear it was never his intention to hurt anyone.

The judge said the man was committed to dealing with his mental health issues, was working full time, and had a positive plan for the future.

The judge granted the man permanent name suppression on mental health grounds.

The man was sentenced to three months’ community detention and was disqualified from driving for nine months.

He was also given nine months’ supervision on the condition he attend a drug and alcohol counselling.

The man today also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of failing to stop while speeding – relating to an incident in Porirua in December last year.

The judge said on that occasion the man went through a giveway sign without stopping and was chased by police going 70km/h in a 50km/h limit.

He then overtook a car in the wrong side of the road, and drove up to 100km/h at times before the police abandoned the pursuit.

The man’s car was found a short time later, and not long after that the man handed himself into police.

RNZ / Hamish Cardwell