NZ Bad boy Filipo could face jail time

Thu, 27 Oct 2016 08:58
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NEWS: The High Court's decision to allow an appeal against the  discharge without conviction for Losi Filipo's assault on four people means the Wellington rugby player could be incarcerated for two years.

Filipo, now 18-years-old, pleaded guilty to an early-morning assault on two men and two women, which happened in October 2015, when he was still at school and 17-years-old.

However, the young man dodged conviction when he appeared in Wellington District Court in August when the Judge Bruce Davidson took into account the damaging effect it would have on his career. 

But an appeal by the Crown was heard by David Collins on October 26 and in the judgment Collins have ruled that an appeal is allowed and has overruled the discharge without conviction.

Having set aside the discharge, Collins also allow Filipo to vacate his guilty plea if he wanted to, in which case the matter will be sent back to the District Court for trial.

In the ruling, Collins criticises Davidson's ruling stating that the judge failed to consider the severity of the assault, his minimum starting point of one and a half years in prison and letting Filipo's potential professional rugby career influence the outcome.

"The source of Judge Davidson's uncertainty appears to have been the statements in Losi Filipo's affidavit . . . In particular, Losi Filipo portrayed his role as being one of assisting his brother after the fighting had started and that he was hit before he delivered any blows. Losi Filipo's explanation about the genesis of the assault conflicted with the agreed summary of facts," said Collins

Collins also noted the sentencing judge did not refer to the fact Filipo stomped on the head of one victim.

"Those stomps were particularly serious and occurred when Gregory Morgan was already unconscious. This is the most disturbing aspect of Losi Filipo's behaviour. It was potentially lethal conduct and required specific consideration.

"Judge Davidson appears to have understated the seriousness of Losi Filipo's conduct by not specifically referring to the fact he stomped on Gregory Morgan's head on about four occasions,"

He also pointed out Judge Davidson had referred to the assaults against the two female victims as "not particularly serious in themselves" and "more in the nature of pushing and shoving,"

Justice Collins said the description "only partially" reflected the agreed summary of facts, which portrayed the assault on one victim as more serious than how Davidson had described.

Crown prosecutor took issue with Davidson's starting point of one and a half years in prison. Collins found a starting point of two years should have been adopted.

"A starting point of two and a half years' imprisonment would be unimpeachable. I am satisfied Davidson erred when he overlooked relevant matters relating to the gravity of Losi Filipo's offending,"

Those matters were Filipo's role as instigator, the stomping on the head, and the serious consequences for the victims.

Justice Collins also addressed the allegation Judge Davidson overstated the consequences of a conviction on Filipo's career.

Judge Davidson did not have sufficient evidence to conclude a conviction would be a "real and significant barrier" to Filipo fulfilling his ambition to become a professional rugby player, Justice Collins said.

"Davidson, therefore, erred by taking into account an irrelevant factor . . . this error was also an error of law,"

Collins would hold a hearing on November 2 to reach a decision on whether or not the case should be sent back to the District Court of if any sentencing should be dealt with in the High Court.

In the wake of the Filipo's case and all the other scandals surrounding NZR in recent months has really put a dark cloud around the sport in the country.

However, NZR is trying to put in place necessary programmes to educate and help the men plying the trade.

NZR announced the appointments of Eleanor Butterworth as Respect & Responsibility Project Manager and Joe Harawira as RugbySmart Manager.

Butterworth will lead NZR's programme to enhance the skills and knowledge of healthy relationships across all levels of the game and brings experience in leading community family and sexual violence prevention, education and development programmes.

Currently, the Agency Manager for Wellington Rape Crisis and previously Education and Programme Coordinator for Wellington Women's Refuge, Butterworth will join NZR in late November.

In addition to the appointment of the Respect & Responsibility Project Manager, Joe Harawira has recently started as RugbySmart Manager, an ACC initiative to encourage positive health and welfare outcomes across all areas of rugby, from the community level through to the professional environment.

General Manager of Rugby, Neil Sorensen said the two roles were critical to NZR's commitment to safety and welfare in rugby.

"The programme we've developed over the past year with the support of ACC will target safety initiatives aimed at coaches, referees and players, as well as a tailored programme with an emphasis on respectful relationships, including consent, sexual assault and violence prevention.

"We're fortunate to have secured two highly experienced and committed people to take our existing RugbySmart programme to a whole new level,"