A 16-year-old's attendance at a typical teenage party last year turned into a "horrifying ordeal" which continues to trouble him after the host of the party doused him in petrol and set him alight.
Matt-Dillion Shannon, 18, was sentenced at the High Court in Napier yesterday for his role in the attack, said to be inspired by the Jackass movies. He was found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with intent by a jury in September.
In sentencing yesterday, the court heard that while the physical damage to the victim, now 17, had healed, the emotional and psychological damage had not.
Justice Christopher Allan told Shannon he had ruined the life of a "young man who was largely blameless".
"His recovery was slow and painful and by no means complete," Justice Allan said.
"[He] has been subjected to a horrifying ordeal ... of course there is permanent scarring and tenderness. He must be careful about what he wears next to his skin, he cannot expose these injuries to sunlight."
Since the attack, his sister had been teased at school and he had been called "the human torch".
"[He] and his sister have been picked upon simply because they have been victims.
"If that is true, then it reflects very poorly upon this community."
During the trial in September, the jury heard how the victim had been subjected to pack bullying, which culminated in the attack that left him with third-degree burns to his back, neck, shoulders and face.
On the night of August 13, 2011, he was invited to Shannon's 17th birthday party. Despite being unwell after only recently recovering from glandular fever, the keen young cyclist rode to the party in Hastings and, at some point, went into a bedroom to rest.
Shannon and some friends entered the room. Shannon incorrectly thought the victim was drunk and had been sick on his bed.
It was in the bedroom that he was held down, doused in petrol and set on fire.
Testimony from the victim during the trial illustrated his terrifying ordeal.
"He got a lighter out and I remember saying 'Matt, please don't do this' and he lit it. The pain was like nothing you'd ever imagine you could possibly feel. I was screaming for about 20 seconds while I was held down."
In agony, he managed to get up and take his shirt off. Despite asking for help, "everybody was just standing round, laughing". One person eventually stepped forward to help put the fire out. With no T-shirt, he got on his bike and cycled home, where his mother put him in a cold shower and called the police.
Justice Allan acknowledged Shannon's difficult upbringing. His parents had separated when he was 13 and he had been living by himself since he was 16, with only his sister to help him.
"The reasons for this offending can be given in one word: alcohol.
"You were obviously not in a condition to make rational choices and exercise a degree of common sense, neither were those around you at the party. Alcohol is the explanation for the offending, but it can never be an excuse."
Shannon's defence lawyer Bill Calver said while the actions had been "lunacy of the highest order", Shannon had never intended to cause such harm. He asked for the maximum length of home detention in sentencing, coupled with the time he had already spent in custody.
Justice Allan set a starting point of 7 years. This was reduced to a total of three years in prison because Shannon had turned 17 only hours before the incident and for his assistance in helping police identify the other attackers.
While it was a tragedy, it was an even greater tragedy for the young victim and his family, Justice Allan said.