Jailed attacker who threatened to post intimate videos rejects appeal

Ryan Tapsell has over 60 convictions, including domestic abuse against more than one ex-partner. Photo/Otago Daily Times, File

A Dunedin man who twice assaulted his girlfriend and then tried to get her to drop the charges by referring to intimate videos will remain behind bars.

Ryan Karl Tapsell, 49, was jailed for two years and four months in December last year for assault, assault in a domestic relationship and breach of a protective order, but he appealed the result in Dunedin High Court last month on the grounds that it was grossly excessive.

Judge Rob Osborne quashed the appeal and ruled that the protective order for the victim would remain in place.

Tapsell and his then-girlfriend, who was 23 years his junior, bought a house together in 2019, but it was only a few months before the relationship soured.

A temporary protection order was issued in June 2020 and was in effect when the man’s violence began in October.

After an argument, Tapsell held the victim down on a couch and threatened her.

Just five days later, another dispute arose and the defendant ignored the woman as she lay on the bed crying.

When she followed him out of the room, he pushed her to the floor, squeezed her head with his hands, and banged the back of her head on the floor.

“If you scream one more time, I’ll kill you,” Tapsell said.

On October 16, 2020, he was arrested and remanded in custody before being released on bail at a Tauranga address a month later.

He was ordered not to contact the victim but breached the bail condition, regularly texting his then-partner.

In December, he took things a step further by booking his flights to visit her.

The victim initially thought these trips would allow them to go to the bank together and sign remortgage papers, but his behavior soon became more sinister.

Tapsell tried to compel the victim to retract the statement she had given to police, repeatedly mentioning that he had “intimate” videos of her.

She surrendered to the police, but was told the prosecution would continue regardless.

Undeterred, Tapsell asked her to speak to a lawyer and even went so far as to send her a statement he had written on her behalf.

He said she no longer wanted to go to trial, was drunk and drugged at the time of the attack, and could not rely on her memory.

Just before Christmas 2020, the woman told the police everything.

Attorney Deborah Henderson argued that her client deserved more credit for his guilty pleas, his remorse, his offer of reparations, his offer to attend restorative justice, the time spent on electronically monitored bail and for his education that had resulted in a distorted view of how relationships work.

Crown Attorney Robin Bates, however, strongly criticized the documents filed on Tapsell’s behalf.

A letter from a forensic psychologist was based on informal discussions the couple had during a five-day vacation together, the court heard.

Bates also took aim at a cultural report that seemed to put the blame for Tapsell’s violence on his former partners.

Judge Osborne said there was no error in the reasoning behind the sentence.

Where to go for help or more information

• Refuge for women: the free national helpline operates 24/7 – 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843

• Shine National Freephone Helpline 9am-11pm daily – 0508 744 633

• It’s Not Ok: information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz

• Shakti: offers specialized cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. 24/7 Crisis Line 0800 742 584

• Department of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence

• National Stop Violence Network: www.nnsvs.org.nz

• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men’s violence against women www.whiteribbon.org.nz

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