Strangled and punched: Detective speaks out after suffering the worst attack of her career

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Detective Bronwyn Inglis said she was saved by a colleague who kicked then Tasered her assailant who was high on methamphetamine at the time he strangled her.

A senior police officer strangled and punched by an assailant high on methamphetamine says she was left fearing for herself and a colleague.

Detective Bronwyn Inglis was pushed against the wall, strangled and punched in the head while attending a family harm callout in Motueka.

She was left suffering both physically and emotionally.

This week, Dalton Michael Hutton was sentenced in the Nelson District Court to two years in prison on a charge of strangulation, assaulting a police officer and breaching a protection order.

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Inglis has been in the police force for 25 years and said she had never been assaulted as badly as she was by Hutton on January 23 this year.

After his sentencing, she told NZME what happened.

Inglis had been helping frontline police attend the callout when it suddenly took a frightening turn.

One moment she was carefully trying to coax Hutton into talking and the next his hands were around her throat.

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There had been little time to react, Inglis said.

“He just charged at me, to where I was standing – he ran at me and shoved me back,” she said.

“I couldn’t get him off me. He was just so strong.”

Bronwyn Inglis, who has spent most of her police career in the Nelson region, was traumatised by the worst attack by an offender she had experienced in her 25-year career. Photo / Tracy Neal
Bronwyn Inglis, who has spent most of her police career in the Nelson region, was traumatised by the worst attack by an offender she had experienced in her 25-year career. Photo / Tracy Neal

She was saved by a colleague who kicked and then Tasered Hutton.

“I was afraid he would assault both of us.”

During sentencing, Judge Garry Barkle described the assault as especially violent.

“This was a sworn police officer trained in dealing with this sort of offending. The attack was unexpected and committed with ferocity,” he said.

Hutton, who lived with his brother in Nelson, had gone to visit his mother in Motueka, for whom a final protection order was issued in November 2016.

While he was there he became agitated and started smashing items in the house and throwing them around. Hutton’s mother became afraid so left the house and called the police, who found him lying on a bed in one of the bedrooms.

Inglis said she was in a different area of the house when he suddenly jumped up and lunged at her, and then grabbed her by the throat with both hands. Hutton then pushed her back against a wall, leaving her unable to escape, and then began punching her in the head.

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Hutton was subdued and arrested. He told police he had used methamphetamine two days earlier and was coming down from a high, but didn’t know why he had acted violently.

Inglis said it was noticeable among the police how offenders on meth could react more violently and aggressively and were sometimes made so much stronger by using the drug.

She told NZME that while she felt she was over the initial trauma, which had lingered in the days following the attack, she was now more wary about how she approached what would be described as a potentially serious situation.

In court, Judge Barkle noted Inglis’ description in her victim impact statement of the trauma she had suffered in the attack.

“It came as a big shock when he charged at her and believed if the strangulation continued it would have left her unconscious, or worse,” the judge said.

She still suffered emotionally and continued to have memories of what was a violent attack.

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Inglis was also left with physical injuries, including soreness in her throat and neck, and damage to her front teeth, which required dental repairs.

Judge Barkle said aggravating features in the case included that the assault was on a police officer, Hutton’s six prior breaches of a protection order, and a string of family violence callouts.

From a starting point of 41 months in prison, Hutton was given credit for his early guilty pleas before arriving at a sentence of two years imprisonment.

He was also sentenced to eight months in jail on each of the other two charges, to be served concurrently.

Inglis said she was happy with the sentencing outcome and grateful for the huge amount of support from colleagues and associated agencies, which had provided medical and debriefing support.

Tracy Neal is a Nelson-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She was previously RNZ’s regional reporter in Nelson-Marlborough and has covered general news, including court and local government for the Nelson Mail.

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