Editorial: The news media did it

The curious case of prominent Auckland investment banker Guy Hallwright, sentenced to community service on Thursday after seriously injuring a man he ran down in a road rage incident, deserves scrutiny, not least because it appears that in the eyes of the sentencing judge the news media was - wait for it - a culprit, too.

Oh, and the prosecutors were criticised, too, for, in the view of Judge Raoul Neave, having the temerity to charge Hallwright under the Crimes Act, meaning Hallwright could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison, instead of using the much less punitive Land Transport Act.

Using the Crimes Act against one of society's contributors had caused Hallwright severe humiliation, the judge found.

But it was the news media, in reporting on Hallwright's trial, that became a significant target of the judge's comments. The news media's interest in the case had "bordered on the lurid", been prurient and vulgar in the extreme. It had "seized upon and reported for no reason other than a desire to take an unhealthy degree of glee of the misfortune of someone who might be in a more fortunate position".

Dear, dear. No wonder Hallwright suffered severe humiliation that the judge found was well in excess of that required by the gravity of the offence. But is that right? He did, after all, run down a man in what was described as a road rage incident, smashing both the man's legs and leaving him lying screaming in pain.

Hallwright did later telephone the police to tell them what he had done. He was eventually charged with causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard and convicted by a jury, though Judge Neave found that from "what I know of your character . . . I consider it highly unlikely you would have driven at him" and that it was only momentary flight.

The victim, who had left his own vehicle and banged on the bonnet of Hallwright's Saab before Hallwright drove over him, had in the judge's view "gone under the wheels of your car, you've driven over him before carrying on with your manoeuvre" of pulling out into the road and driving away from the situation. This had apparently escalated in seriousness by the action of the victim in banging on the bonnet.

An unfortunate accident, then, because Judge Neave found that "it goes without saying you never sought to cause those injuries".

So Hallwright will now have to suffer the humiliation of being without his driver's licence for 18 months and performing 250 hours' community service. Hallwright, who lives in a $2.4 million freehold mansion, has also agreed to pay the man he ran over $20,000, a sum Judge Neave pointed out represented his remorse and was not a loophole of the legal system that allowed rich people to buy their way out of more serious sentences.

And the victim? Sung Jin Kim still hobbles, two years after he was run over, the New Zealand Herald reports. His legs are still swollen, bruised and patched with scars. The legs have been operated on to try to repair the damage as much as possible but he needs more surgery, probably about six operations in total.

But he has received $20,000. And Hallwright has been embarrassed publicly by having to appear in open court in front of a bunch of impudent, gossip-mongering reporters. IS THAT an awful price to pay even for an upstanding citizen, given the victim's injuries?

The Southland Times