Judge slams road rage banker conviction
A district court judge has flayed the prosecution and the media as he gave prominent financier Guy Hallwright a non-custodial sentence after seriously wounding a man he ran down in a road rage incident.
Judge Raoul Neave, in the Auckland District Court, ordered the 60-year-old Forsyth Barr analyst to serve 250 hours community work, pay $20,000 in reparation and be disqualified from driving for 18 months.
He could have been jailed for up to five years, but Judge Neave ruled out any prospect of detention.
Hallwright was found guilty in June of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard to Song-jin Kim, on Auckland's Mt Eden Road on September 8, 2010.
Kim has had eight operations on his legs since the accident and will have more. He claims his work and family life has also suffered and he suffers a life long psychological impact.
Judge Neave told the court that Hallwright was one of society's contributors who had suffered humiliation because of the Crimes Act charge.
He criticised the crown saying the charge, which a jury found proven, should have been laid under the weaker Land Transport Act.
Hallwright had suffered severe humiliation "well in excess of that required by the gravity of the offence", the judge said.
Hallwright's lawyer, Paul Davison QC, successfully argued for one of the key aspects of the humiliation to be permanently suppressed.
The judge condemned the crown and media for their "unhealthy degree of glee of the misfortunate of someone who might be in a more fortunate position....
"Indeed I have wondered at some length whether or not if this had been an encounter between two teenage boys on the backstreets of Manukau whether we would be here today."
At Hallwright's June trial, Kim claimed he had not tooted at Hallwright at traffic lights and that Hallwright gave him the fingers and swore at him. Kim said he had gone to Hallwright's car and stumbled, falling on to the bonnet. Hallwright then drove over Kim's legs as he left the scene.
Hallwright denied deliberately driving into Kim, saying he was afraid he might have had a weapon when the two of them confronted each other. He told the court he felt a "small bump" when the car went over Kim.
The maximum sentence Hallwright faced was a jail term of seven years.
Criminal lawyer Graeme Newell said Hallwright's community service sentence was "fairly typical" for someone who injures another with a motor vehicle without intent.
He said the judge also took into account an offer of reparation.
"This offence can attract a term of imprisonment, however, the judge clearly viewed the reckless element on the lower end of the scale in terms of culpability.
"Clearly his honour had in mind that the focus should be reparation given the injuries suffered by this victim," Newell said.
In sentencing today, Judge Neave said the incident was a momentary flight but that Hallwright, who had a "spotless reputation and impeccable character," had shown genuine remorse.
"It was a decision of the moment and in no way premeditated."
He noted the Hallwright had offered a significant payment to Mr Kim.
"You are not buying yourself out of a proper sentence," he said.
Kim had claimed to be in front of the car when he was hit, but Judge Neave said given Hallwright's character he did consider it highly unlikely.
Kim's injuries were "very significant and severe" but Hallwright had not set out to cause them, the judge said.
He launched into the media saying they had used words like hit-and-run and road rage.
"You have suffered a degree of prurient media interest which can only be described as vulgar in the extreme," the judge said to the defendant in the dock.
"Publicity bordered on the lurid which does nothing to engender the confidence in the media's ability to provide measured and responsible coverage of court proceedings, indeed of legal issues in general."
Under the government's three strikes law, Judge Neave said he was required to warn Hallwright this was the first of his three strikes.
Hallwright's wife Juliet, who was in court for the sentencing, photographed the media sitting on the press bench and in the jury box.
"It is a big day for my family, these are for my own records," she said.
Photography can only take place in court with judge's permission.
Public records show the Hallwrights live in a mortgage free Parnell mansion with a rateable value of $2.4 million.