Northland man who fired shots during police chase spared 14-year jail sentence

The mugshot police used four years ago in appealing for the public’s help to locate Heta Lloyd aka Brass, then 27. Lloyd now says he is a changed man, thanks to help of his girlfriend.

Four years ago Heta Lloyd fired gunshots from his car during a police pursuit and a month later rammed a patrol car during another chase.

Standing before a judge on Thursday, Lloyd aka Brass, 31, insisted he was a changed man and read a powerful letter he penned for the court.

That and other factors were enough to convince Justice Sally Fitzgerald not to impose a maximum 14-year jail term Lloyd would have been subject to under the Three Strikes regime.

Instead, she sentenced him in the High Court at Whangārei to five years, one month, with a minimum non-parole period of two years and a three-year driver disqualification.

The first police pursuit was in July 2018. Police noticed Lloyd, with his girlfriend in the passenger seat of her car, evade a checkpoint at Awanui.

Trying to head police off, Lloyd drove dangerously and at speeds beyond 140km/h along State Highway 1 before turning into a forest with a maze of gravel roads.

He put a gun out his driver’s window and fired a shot in the air hoping police would stop.

But the chase continued to Ninety Mile Beach where Lloyd and his girlfriend fled on foot. The pair disappeared into the darkness while officers waited for an Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) to attend.

The couple went undiscovered until the following month when off-duty officers spotted them at Ahipara Beach.

Lloyd drove off, overtaking three vehicles on a blind corner at more than 100km/h.

Armed police chased the couple until a tyre punctured by road spikes slowed them down.

Lloyd began to throw objects – including steel ratchets and a tyre iron – at pursuing officers.

His vehicle spun out at a sharp corner and hit a patrol car head-on. Lloyd accelerated, pushing the police vehicle down a hill towards a drop-off. Other officers quickly disabled Lloyd’s vehicle.

He subsequently pleaded guilty to charges arising from that later offending – assault with a weapon (the car), resisting arrest and possession of methamphetamine – two point-bags found in the car.

He denied being involved in the first pursuit and took the matter to trial.

The first jury was unable to decide if police were right to identify him as the offender. But a jury at a retrial was quick to agree, finding Lloyd guilty of two charges of using a firearm against police (for which he got his third-strike warning), unlawful possession of a firearm, explosives, and an offensive weapon; driving while disqualified for a third or subsequent time, dangerous driving, failing to stop for police, possession of meth and meth utensils, and possession of cannabis and cannabis seeds.

His girlfriend has already been dealt with for her lesser role.

A tearful Lloyd read his letter to the court, saying he now accepted responsibility for all of the offending and apologised.

Up until meeting his partner in 2018, he never felt wanted or needed.

She and her children gave him a sense of belonging he had never had before.

He wished they were in his life 12 years earlier – he would not be standing in the dock and would not have all his other criminal convictions.

His partner had shown him that family was better than gangs, drugs and prison, which he did not know until these past seven months when he had been on electronically-monitored bail.

During that time he had “not one thought” of any criminal behaviour. He was “simply happy to have a home-cooked meal and watch movies with my family every night”.

It was the first time he had not reoffended while on em-bail.

His partner had also reunited him with his family, who he had not seen in many as 14 years “because of me being in jail for my whole adult life and because of the path I was stuck on”, he said.

He feared that if he was locked away too much longer, he would lose his partner and would fall back onto a negative path.

One of his main goals, when released, was to get his facial tattoos removed so he could get a legitimate job and to erase the daily reminder of his past gang affiliations.

Justice Fitzgerald noted reports and reference letters supported Lloyd’s pledge he was ready to change and that his girlfriend was the catalyst.

The judge took into account those factors – Lloyd’s dreadful upbringing, the fact his previous two-strike offences were at the lower end, and that he did not fire directly at police during this one. In her view, those offences were not the type of persistent violent offending the public would expect to be captured by the Three Strikes regime.

She noted the difference between the sentence under the Three Strikes regime would be almost triple what would otherwise be an appropriate sentence – it would add another 10 years, a third of Lloyd’s age today.

She could decline to impose it without parole, which might result in a sentence closer to the normal one. But there was no guarantee parole would be granted or that Lloyd would get programmes to help him achieve it.

In her view, the Three Strikes sentence would be grossly disparate from the normal one and would have a crushing effect on Lloyd.

It would breach Section 9 of the Bill of Rights Act – that everyone has the right not to be subject to disproportionately severe treatment or punishment.

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