Unprovoked attack leaves Wellington bar owners with permanent injuries


Hugh Soper at the Wellington District Court being sentenced for an attack at a pub.

Ross Giblin/Stuff

Hugh Soper at the Wellington District Court being sentenced for an attack at a pub.

Two Wellington bar owners have been left with permanent injuries and feel like they have lost 10 years of their lives after an unprovoked attack on them by a patron.

Ray and Sue Cullis​ were in court to see what finally happened to Hugh Soper, having waited more than two years for a resolution.

Both had their victim impact statements read to Wellington District Court judge Bruce Davidson​ at his sentencing on Friday. They detailed the suffering and medical treatment they had undergone in the years since the 2019 attack.

Soper, then 23, had been at their pub, the Sprig and Fern in Thorndon, on a Sunday night. After a minor argument where a friend of his was asked to leave, Soper threatened to hit Ray Cullis, 72, with a pint handle before punching him three or four times and stomping on his head.

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Sue Cullis had her hand broken when she tried to intervene. Others had to drag Soper away.

Ray Cullis had his jaw displaced and had to have a head scan to see if any bones were broken in his skull. He has been left with permanent damage to his left eye and needed surgery to correct it, while his wife had to have multiple surgeries on her left hand after it was rebroken several times during treatment.

The Sprig and Fern Tavern on Tinakori Rd is owned by Ray and Sue Cullis.

Ross Giblin

The Sprig and Fern Tavern on Tinakori Rd is owned by Ray and Sue Cullis.

The couple said they had had a budding friendship with Soper’s mother and had in the past offered him work.

Ray Cullis said he also had balance problems as he was punched on the left side of his head. He felt like they had lost 10 years of life.

Soper had pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and injuring with reckless disregard.

Defence lawyer Mike Antunovic​ said Soper was remorseful and ashamed of kicking the victim to the head.

Soper had never had the opportunity of telling them how he feels or saying he is sorry, he said.

“He extends his apologies through me.”

Judge Bruce Davidson gave Hugh Soper seven months home detention for his attack on two publicans.

The-Dominion-Post

Judge Bruce Davidson gave Hugh Soper seven months home detention for his attack on two publicans.

Judge Davidson sentenced Soper to seven months’ home detention, ordered him to stay away from alcohol, and to pay $4000 emotional harm reparation.

He said reparation could never be seen to adequately compensate the victims for what happened.

The judge said the attack was very much spur of the moment, impulsive and a significant overreaction on his part.

Davidson said Soper suffered from anxiety, which left him prone to erupting spontaneously in certain circumstances.



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