A candidate in the upcoming local government elections is accused of assaulting a Lotto shop staff member in a dispute about whether the candidate had paid for a Lotto ticket.
The accused, who is contesting an election in Hawke's Bay, appeared in Hastings District Court yesterday.
The candidate was granted interim name suppression last week, and yesterday indicated a wish to be granted final name suppression. "At this stage, I'm strenuously denying the allegations."
The candidate, who was not represented by a lawyer, was offered diversion but had declined, not wishing to admit the offence.
The person said they had consulted two lawyers and both had advised taking diversion. The candidate told Judge Bridget Mackintosh: "I thought with that sort of attitude, their heart wouldn't be in it."
Judge Mackintosh replied that the lawyers might have been giving "commonsense advice".
The candidate disputed an allegation by police that they were drunk at the time of the alleged assault, saying it was "completely untrue".
"The Lotto ticket was paid for and the complainant wouldn't give it to me," the candidate said.
At the judge's urging, the candidate agreed to see a duty solicitor. A short time later they appeared before the judge to say they would like to consider the offer of diversion.
To take diversion, they would need to write a letter of apology to the victim and do 30 hours of community work.
The police diversion scheme gives people a chance to avoid a criminal conviction for their first criminal offence. It is usually available only for first-time minor offences.
The candidate was directed to see police tomorrow to discuss diversion. Sergeant Andy Horne said the offer of diversion "was the best way of dealing with this matter". "If [the defendant] won't accept it, then we're backed into a corner."
As for name suppression, Mr Horne said: "There are a lot of famous rugby players that get diversion, but their names are still out there in the media and I don't think [the defendant] should be any different."
Judge Mackintosh said the candidate would have to show that publication of their name would cause "undue hardship".
The application for name suppression was opposed by the news media. Judge Mackintosh scheduled a hearing on the application next week.
- © Fairfax NZ News