Veitch: Henry, Devoy distance themselves

Last updated 18:51 17/04/2009

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All Blacks coach Graham Henry has spoken out against Tony Veitch's assault on his former partner after coming under fire from Women's Refuge for his perceived support of the broadcaster.

Other high-profile character referees quoted in court have also questioned the use of their testimonies for Veitch, saying they thought they would only be used to help him get his passport back.

Veitch, 35, was yesterday fined $10,000, placed on supervision for nine months and ordered to do 300 hours of community work after pleading guilty to injuring his former girlfriend Kristin Dunne-Powell with reckless regard to her safety.

The Auckland District Court was presented with a raft of character references for Veitch, written by high-profile sports and broadcasting figures, including Henry.

The coach described Veitch as a fair and objective reporter who had abstained from "bagging" individuals following the All Blacks' early departure from the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

"Because of his qualities as a journalist and his willingness to help others, Tony has many supporters in the community and they all hope that he gets an opportunity as soon as possible to be able to get on with his life," Henry said.

Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare, who yesterday praised Veitch for taking responsibility for his actions, said yesterday some of his supporters should be embarrassed, and she singled out Henry's statement.

"We're talking about someone who had a broken back as a result of an assault."

Henry said today he would be concerned if his comments had been "misconstrued".

"I don't condone what happened. It was a terrible act," he said.

"I provided a character reference for him based on the relationship I had with him professionally and my knowledge of the work he had done with sporting clubs and charities."

Dame Susan Devoy and Olympic and Commonwealth Games chef de mission and New Zealand cricket team manager Dave Currie also spoke out today against their own words being used in court and in the media.

They said they had provided a testimonial for Veitch's application to have his passport returned and it was not for use during his sentencing.

"I feel misled," the squash legend said this morning.

In her testimonial Dame Susan said Veitch deserved a chance to get his life back and have the opportunity to work again.

She had been asked to provide a testimonial on Monday, but did not know then that he would be appearing in court this week, and was taken aback when he did, she said.

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"I honestly wrote my testimonial in the belief it was to support an application from Tony to get his passport back for the possibility of a job opportunity," she told Radio Live.

She had written it because she believed Veitch, whom she knew and whose stepmother was a close friend, deserved a chance to work again.

"I mean we can't ostracise him for the rest of his life. But it is a different kettle of fish when you are writing a letter of support of someone coming up for sentencing."

She said she would not necessarily have refused to provide a testimonial for his sentencing.

Mr Currie's reference said: "While I appreciate the seriousness of the charges he is facing and make no comment on them, my personal dealings with Tony have always been conducted with honesty and respect."

Mr Currie said this morning that his reference in no way meant he condoned Veitch's actions.

"Clearly it was a serious incident and it was not a good thing to do," he told the Waikato Times.

"I by no way condone at all what he has done. I made it clear in my note that I wasn't condoning the serious charge that he was facing, I simply made comment on my experiences over the years with him."

Meanwhile, Veitch's lawyer, Stuart Grieve, QC, said his client had been "stitched up" by the media over several issues and another barrister intended to bring defamation action against some outlets.

Mr Grieve said the "media frenzy" had made the situation difficult for everybody and "whoever runs the (defamation) case for Mr Veitch will not have difficulty in establishing it".

-NZPA

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