New Zealand Rugby says sorry to Losi Filipo assault victims after media onslaught
Paul Henry goes on the attack against Steve Tew over NZ Rugby's failure to contact the victims of Losi Filipo's assault.
New Zealand Rugby says it has apologised to three of the victims of Losi Filipo's attack - either personally or to their mothers.
It follows a commitment by New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew under intense pressure on live TV on Wednesday morning to contact them.
Tew endured a media onslaught as he fronted on the Wellington rugby player's attack on four people, and how NZ Rugby was yet to contact the victims.
He told Paul Henry on TV3 he would contact the victims "before he left the country" to join the All Blacks in Argentina for their Rugby Championship match this weekend.
Tew departed late Wednesday morning with attack victim Greg Morgan still waiting to hear from him. "It's still early days so I'll just keep waiting and see if they [New Zealand Rugby] do end up contacting me," he said.
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NZ Rugby said its rugby general manager, Neil Sorensen, had since spoken to Morgan and two of the victims' mothers and apologised to them.
"Basically what I said to Kim and Karen [parents of two victims] is sorry - sorry they've had go through this mess, sorry that rugby's put them in this situation," Sorensen told One News.
"We should've known the details, the severity of the situation before standing by Losi in the first place," he said.
"When we found out the gory details, it just wasn't good enough, we couldn't stand by him after that."
Earlier, one of the woman assaulted, Olivia Samuel, said she had not heard from Tew or New Zealand Rugby by early Wednesday afternoon.
The termination of Filipo's contract with Wellington Rugby was a "really good start," she said.
"I'm obviously really happy with that and I know the other guys are really happy with that as well."
After his appearance on Paul Henry, Tew was understood to have called Karen Odell, mother of assault victim Kelsey Odell. NZ Rugby said Sorensen was following up in the absence of Tew.
MORGAN ON FILIPO
Filipo and Wellington Rugby agreed to part ways yesterday and Filipo said in a statement he hoped his decision to quit the squad would go some way toward helping the victims move on with their lives.
"I understand why the victims of the assault do not want to talk to me and have not taken up an offer of restorative justice," Filipo said.
The assault victim said he was happy with Filipo's decision, but wanted further legal action taken.
"I'm a little bit relieved he's stood up to the plate himself and he's terminated his own contract but, again, we're still waiting on it to go through the court process."
It was a demanding morning in the media spotlight for Tew who was taken to task on Paul Henry, by Susie Ferguson on RNZ's Morning Report and Hilary Barry on Breakfast.
Tew was slammed for the way NZ Rugby had dealt with the Filipo incident, in which the Wellington rugby player had been discharged without conviction for a late-night assault on four people in 2015.
Filipo did not immediately lose his rugby playing contract, though late on Tuesday it was terminated following a day of intense public scrutiny.
In discharging Filipo, Judge Bruce Davidson had said "there are real and significant consequences of conviction for the defendant. His chosen career could well be outside his purview if convicted".
Davidson's sentencing had been heavily criticised on Tuesday, but the heat had turned to Tew on Wednesday with the NZ Rugby boss under fire for not yet making contact with the victims of the assault.
"The first thing is that the victims appear to not have been contacted by anybody from Wellington Rugby. That's something I think we should make sure happens very quickly," Tew said on Paul Henry.
"[Wellington Rugby] relied on the court process to deal with this incident. It's worth remembering that this young man was still at school, when the assault took place. He wasn't in the care of Wellington Rugby, but clearly the seriousness of the assaults would suggest that he shouldn't have been playing and that decision has now been made. Too late, but we'll have to learn from that.
Henry wasn't impressed.
"Way too late," Henry said, "but let's go back to contacting the victims, you just said we'll deal with that. When? Why didn't you deal with it yesterday when you found out they hadn't been contacted? Why haven't you phoned them?"
"[It's] unbelievable you haven't done it. I cannot believe, Steve, you didn't do that yesterday."
On Breakfast, Hilary Barry was critical of Tew's leadership and asked if it was right that it took public pressure for Filipo to be punished.
"Well, I'm not sure we would use the term punishment now, this kid is also suffering," Tew said.
"I mean clearly we all have a lot of sympathy for the victims of assault. He pleaded guilty to some pretty serious charges and the judge has dealt with it.
"Rugby, you know, cannot be ... in court every time something comes across our table we have to let society deal with things in the first instance."
Henry also slammed the efforts of Tew and NZ Rugby.
"I would say that is gross, gross management. That's appalling management," Henry replied.
"If that's as quickly as you can deal with it, I mean you're the chief executive of a major organisation. Is this the quickest you can deal with it. Will you call the victims yourself, personally?
After about six minutes of grilling, Tew relented and said he would call the victims, but clearly only on the suggestion of Henry.
"I think that's a good thing for me to do, having had this conversation with you," Tew said. "I will do it today before I leave the country."
Tew said the focus on Tuesday was sorting through Filipo's contract, which was terminated by Wellington Rugby. He then said on Paul Henry that it wasn't a NZ Rugby matter.
"Well, we aren't involved in this matter actually. It is a matter for Wellington Rugby. They've contracted Filipo, they have the victims in their ward if you like," Tew said.
"All we've been doing to date is providing some support. Clearly someone should be talking to the victims, but it needs to be someone who can help them and that's probably someone in the Wellington region.
Henry wasn't impressed.
"Really, because as chief executive of New Zealand Rugby I thought that should be you. It's 'New Zealand' Rugby, and this is besmirching the name of New Zealand Rugby."
Tew replied by saying that they were dealing with the issue as quickly as possible. He also showed his compassion for Filipo as much as the four victims.
"We only found out two days ago, and it's taken that long to get a result that we believe is the right one for all the victims here, including Losi.
"He's now a young man whose life is at the crossroads. Rightly or wrongly, we have to take some responsibility for him.
"Clearly there are victims here, we will make sure they are spoken to. It's been 48 hours since we knew this occurred and we're dealing with it as quickly as we can."
STRIPPERS AND ASSAULT A BAD TIME
On Breakfast, Tew said that it was not a good time for NZ Rugby, with this incident occurring in the aftermath of the Chiefs stripper scandal.
"I would ask everyone to remember there is a lot of good stuff going on in our sport as there is in every sport across the country every single day. And as you know we have to be very careful that the court of public opinion doesn't drive every decision of every minute of every day."
Barry was quick to reply.
"Well, sometimes you have to rely on that because you guys aren't stepping up."
Tew went back to showing his sympathy for Filipo's situation.
"Well I respect your view on that Hillary, you know I do, but in the end we've got to work our way through these processes.
"It took actually not that long once the matter became fully public and we had the full extent of the information through the Wellington Rugby Union in this instance... but we are also looking after another young man whose life is at a crossroads."
On RNZ, Ferguson asked if NZ Rugby were condoning this behaviour, given All Blacks centre George Moala was found guilty of injuring with intent in 2012.
"We have got education programmes out of George's experience," Tew said.
"Just for sport generally we can turn some of these lives around and for everyone we fail there will be many that are successful."
Ferguson pressed Tew on how many of these incidents over the years had been under his watch.
"An awful lot more needs to be done and you can't hold your hands up and say it's just society," Ferguson said.
"I'm not saying that," Tew replied.
"We've been talking to other agencies… but every Saturday there are 150,000 people playing rugby, there will be mistakes.
"We need to be realistic about what we need to achieve."
Auckland University law expert Dr Bill Hodge said the argument often heard in cases like Filipo's that a conviction could prevent a professional athlete from travelling internationally for their job was misleading.
Immigration departments here and overseas could and did make exceptions on a case-by-case basis to allow people with criminal records to travel for work.
He gave the example of rock stars with drugs convictions who were sometimes - but not always - prevented from playing concerts overseas.
In some countries an official, like the Immigration Minister, could make a call to allow someone with convictions into the country if they showed evidence of rehabilitation, Hodge said.
"It is possible if you make the right arguments."
The solicitor-general's role in deciding whether to appeal Filipo's discharge without conviction was to compare it to similar cases nationwide, to determine whether the law had been applied equally, he said.
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