Ex-All Black's child assault sentencing put off

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 10:31 28/02/2012

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A former All Black who pleaded guilty to assaulting a child has had his sentencing adjourned.

The man, who cannot be named to keep his son's identity secret, pleaded guilty in November after striking his son twice with a leather belt.

He was to be sentenced in the Family Violence Court at Auckland District Court today but it was put off to March so he could appear before the same judge he had already appeared before.

The sportsman's lawyer, John Eichelbaum, said a previous judge had indicated a discharge without conviction would be available if the man completed an anger management course, which he had done.

Judge Lex de Jong said it was not appropriate for him to deal with the case and remanded the man to a sentencing on March 9.

The man's son was yesterday granted permanent name suppression which, by proxy, means the man cannot be named.

Judge Pippa Sinclair said yesterday it was to protect the child, not the sportsman.

Eichelbaum had presented a psychologist's report detailing the possible effect on the boy if his father's name was published.

Judge Sinclair said the man's case was that his son could be identified and teased by his peers and could feel guilty for his part in the incident.

The psychologist said the boy had a close and loving relationship with his father and he had a sense of guilt and responsibility over the matter.

"Identification of his father is likely to intensify those feelings."

Eichelbaum said the offending was close to the bottom of the spectrum in terms of seriousness of offending.

A police summary of facts said the man was "sick and tired" of his son's fighting with his sister and had struck his son with a belt once in the legs and once in the shoulder, causing bruises.

Child, Youth and Family became involved after they were alerted by teachers at the boy's school.

Lawyer Kristin Bradley, representing Fairfax and other media, said publicising the man's name would help the public by allowing him to "step up" to domestic violence and say "It's not ok".

The man's lawyer said the boy feared he would be blamed but Bradley said publication would show that being the victim of domestic violence was not something to be ashamed of.

Police supported the application for permanent name suppression saying the boy was "fiercely" supportive of his father and they wanted to protect the boy's "dignity" in this matter.

Police prosecutor Brent Thomson said that on the same day as the sports star appeared in court, two other much more serious cases were heard and neither was reported.

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Thomson said police wanted and anti-domestic violence message promoted but they also wanted to ensure that families with a "significant profile" were not given undue prominence.

- Auckland Now

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