I don't think that sends a message at all
All Blacks wing Julian Savea entered no plea and was remanded on bail when he appeared in court Monday, charged with assaulting his girlfriend.
The 22-year-old Savea, who featured in New Zealand's "It's Not OK" campaign against family violence, made a brief appearance in front of a packed media gallery at the Wellington District Court.
Savea was charged with assaulting Dawn Rodgers, the mother of his child, on April 15 and was ordered to appear again next month.
The couple have a baby daughter, Cora.
Judge Anthony Walsh stipulated Savea must live at a different address from his partner and should not attempt to contact her.
An application by media organisations to photograph and film him in court was denied by Judge Tony Walsh.
Savea, who stood in the dock wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, did not enter a plea to the charge of common assault.
A large media contingent was in court to cover the appearance.
Savea's lawyer, Lucie Scott, argued against media being allowed to photograph or film him in court, saying he had already been open with media.
She noted that applications had been filed well outside the time limit allowed under the media guidelines because media were only made aware of the appearance the previous day.
"They became aware of that because of Savea's actions in front-footing the fact that he was going to be in court," 'Scott said.
She said media had had ample opportunity to photograph Savea at his press conference and as he was entering and leaving court.
It would be more appropriate to consider the applications at his next appearance on May 15, she said.
Scott said Savea should be treated in the same way as anyone else appearing before the court.
"Declining the in-court photograph and film applications is in the interests of justice and the best interests of Savea," she said.
Judge Walsh said it was the first call of the matter and more time was needed for counsel to investigate the application.
It would be considered again at Savea's next appearance.
"Any issues relating to the media applications can be fully argued at that time," the judge said.
* Meanwhile Savea has moved out of his family home and his mother is acting as a go-between for the player and his partner.
He is the 11th top-level player to be charged with assault in seven years, and rugby bosses announced an independent review into how the Rugby Union supports its players in coping with the "pressures of the professional game".
Savea's mother, Lina, told the NZ Herald her son moved in with her after the incident last Sunday, and the entire family was supporting him.
Dawn stayed at Savea's house with their daughter, who is almost one.
Savea was finding it "very difficult" to be away from Cora, his mother said.
Savea's mother said she hasn't spoken to Dawn directly, but has relayed messages between her and Savea, who aren't speaking directly to one another.
Savea didn't know whether her son and his partner were still together, but said they were "just letting things settle".
"We're just taking it day by day, as it comes," she said. "We're just here for my son as best as we can and his family is behind him, whatever the outcome is, we'll take it. His family and friends are all there for him."
Although rugby authorities knew about the incident a day later, Savea was allowed to play for the Hurricanes against the Western Force last Friday, and is expected to be at Hurricanes training this week and to go to South Africa next weekend.
Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare criticised that move.
"What the powers that be have said is that there are going to be no consequences ... I don't think that's the right move. I don't think that sends a message at all," said 'Henare.
But she praised Savea for fronting up over the allegations.
Wellington Rugby Union Chief Executive James Te Puni said Savea would be kept in the team environment.
News of the assault was "disappointing", he said.
"But when the issue was raised our focus immediately went to the people affected, and how do we provide support," Te Puni said.
The charge shouldn't stop Savea heading to South Africa with the Hurricanes next weekend.
Tew said it could take months for the case to go through the court system.
"We've had other players, unfortunately, in the same situation and . . . we believe they are better off in the environment, carrying on with their work and getting on with their lives," he said.
The New Zealand Ministry of Social Development, which runs the "It's Not OK!" campaign, did not want to comment on the All Black's involvement.
Ministry spokesman Dominic McGurk would not say whether Savea's role in the campaign would be reviewed or whether his anti-violence advertisements would be pulled.
Criminal law expert Jonathon Krebs said whether or not Savea would be able to travel while his case was before the courts would depend on the bail conditions.
Savea's dependence on travel for his job could make it easier for him to obtain a discharge without conviction, if the consequences of a conviction would significantly outweigh the gravity of his offence, Krebs said.
Clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo said the NZRU acted responsibly when it came to supporting its players and she welcomed the independent review.
"These things need to be got on top of very quickly," she said.
Most people did not appreciate the pressures that modern-day All Blacks were under, especially when they shot to fame at an early age, she said.
"They have huge temptations around them and expectations that they have to get used to very quickly . . . it's the scourge of professional sport."
Sources: SAPA-AP & APNZ