Worker who assaulted former boss in supermarket threatened to ‘break his legs’

Worker who assaulted former boss in supermarket threatened to ‘break his legs’

A man who confronted his former boss in a supermarket and threatened to break his legs has been sentenced to 120 hours of community work. Photo / 123RF

A simple trip to the grocery store ended badly for John Hingaia, and his former boss.

The couple’s paths crossed at a Tākaka supermarket, where each went shopping on the evening of 20 January this year.

Hingaia, a 48-year-old heavy machinery driver, allegedly left his job at Golden Bay firm Solly’s Freight on bad terms, claiming he was treated badly and racially abused.

But Solly’s managing director Merv Solly – who is not the victim in the case – told NZME it was an “absolute lie”, adding that the company had never racially abused anyone because they had people from all over the world employed.

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Hingaia was found guilty in the Nelson District Court today on a charge of assault after he pushed his former manager in a supermarket aisle and threatened to break his legs.

Merv Solly, managing director of Solly’s Freight, said a driver’s claims that he quit because he was racially abused was an “absolute lie”. Photo / Tracy Neal

Judge Tony Zohrab said there were better ways to resolve a dispute and told him if every employee who had a grievance with their boss “went out and their snot” it would be carnage out there.

“In a civilized society if you feel you have been treated badly by an employer, you do have remedies available through the ERA [Employment Relations Authority],” said Judge Zohrab.

That evening, the two were shopping. Hingaia saw his former manager across the hall and started abusing him.

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The victim continued to shop, ignoring Hingaia as much as possible until the former manager got “in his face” from close range as he continued to shout. Hingaia then pushed the man, causing him to step backwards.

The victim tried to walk away before he was pushed twice more, this time into the supermarket shelves.

Hingaia told the man as he walked away that he was going to “break his legs”.

The victim tried to move away to avoid further conflict, but Hingaia followed and “got in his face” again, demanding the victim hit him.

Hingaia then clenched his fist and swung at the victim’s head, stopping himself just before hitting him, then walked away saying: “I’ll wipe that smile off your face.”

Lawyer Ian Miller told the court Hingaia accepted he reacted “very poorly”.

Judge Zohrab said he was sure the victim would have a different take on things, before sentencing Hingaia – who is now working in a new job in Marlborough – to 120 hours of community work.

“There is no other (appropriate) punishment. I appreciate it will be difficult for you, but it is meant to be punishment – ​​not a lifestyle sentence.”

Solly said Hingaia had worked for the company for 16 years until recently, and although he was unaware of the supermarket incident, he was not surprised.

“He was a good worker until recently, but I don’t know what happened,” said Solly.

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“He just resigned and told me what to do with myself. It’s all a bit of a sad scenario.”

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