The Delegat sentence

A lot has been said about the Nikolas Delegat sentence for assaulting a police officer and campus watch officer.

Most seem to think the non-custodial was inadequate, but not everyone (and I’m not convinced either way).

To his credit the judge turned down name suppression, but that may backfire as the publicity and uproar could be seen as disproportional exposure.

There’s no doubt that money buys a better legal defence but there is no way of limiting how much someone can defend themselves, and there’s no way the State can provide unlimited legal aid.

RNZ: Police unhappy with son of wine magnate’s sentence

Nikolas Delegat, 19, the son of Jim Delegat, was yesterday sentenced to 300 hours of community work and a $5000 compensation payment.

The former Otago University student had been drinking heavily in March last year in Dunedin, when he got angry, and assaulted a campus watch officer.

He then punched a police officer four times in the head as she tried to restrain him.

At the sentencing yesterday, the court was told there were mitigating factors including mental health problems, and that Delegat had since undertaken rehabilitation and given up alcohol.

There’s no doubt it was a serious assault that warranted a conviction. I’m not so sure that a prison sentence would have achieved anything apart from satisfying the baying crowd.

The police who prosecuted can’t comment as this could go to appeal – in fact the police could appeal if they feel the sentence is to lenient.

The police were not commenting on the sentence given to the teenager.

Otago Coastal area commander Inspector Kelvin Lloyd issued a statement saying Constable Alana Kane, who Delegat had punched, was very grateful for the support and concern that members of the public had expressed to her.

Mr Lloyd said neither she nor the police would comment on the severity of Delegat’s sentence, nor the Police Association’s view the sentence looked too light.

But the Police Association is unhappy:

Police Association president Greg O’Connor said Delegat was represented by a top Auckland lawyer and got better treatment than other offenders.

“If the same person had been at the other end of the, shall we say, social-economic scale, and maybe poor or Polynesian or from another part of the city or the country, they probably would’ve been unlikely to have got the same consideration.”

That’s possible but contentious. And a defence lawyer has a different opinion:

One experienced defence lawyer, Grant Tyrrell, said 300 hours of community work was not a light sentence for a first assault offence.

The maximum sentence would have been 400 hours of community work, the Christchurch-based lawyer said.

“In a first offence, a community-based sentence would probably be the expected sentence.

“That’s not to undermine the seriousness of the incident but there’s a number of factors the court has to take into account, and a 300-hour community work sentence – it’s three quarters of the maximum, it’s a big sentence.”

It would be unwise to rush to judgement without knowing all the facts considered by the judge, he said.

Too late, many including media have rushed to judgement already.

I don’t know enough about comparable cases and sentences, but I am happy to question whether the sentence was severe enough, but also to question whether a prison sentence would have achieved anything but satisfy those who rush to judgement.

One thing I will predict is that defence lawyers (for defendants who can afford them) will try to use this as justification for name suppression.

Most drunken violence gets nothing like this exposure.


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  13th September 2016

    The police woman was seriously hurt which raises this above the usual drunken violence case I would have thought. However, if the mental health issues are significant then the judge may well have been justified and all round justice served by the name publication and community service sentence.

    This young man will be identified with his conviction by far more people for far longer than most comparable cases.

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  13th September 2016

    One would have to find an exactly equivalent case involving a Maori or Polynesian before saying that they WOULD have had a more severe sentence. I am dubious. There’s a limit to what even the cleverest lawyer can do for someone, and it’s very unflattering to legal aid lawyers to assume that they are less good.

    It’s the luck of the draw if some people can afford the most expensive lawyers and some can’t.

    I was surprised to read the restrictions on legal aid. If a person owns their own house, forget it, if I remember it right.

    Community work surely has to be better than a prison sentence which would cost the people of NZ $? to keep someone inside.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  13th September 2016

      Don’t bother to look for the legal aid criteria, it’s like pulling teeth-without an anaesthetic.

    • Pete Kane

       /  13th September 2016

      Most of the work for the senior criminal barristers in NZ is funded through the ‘Criminal Aid’ structure. It’s about experience and ability in the allocation process, which is often/normally at the fist Court appearance ie one’s first meeting with one’s barrister/duty solicitor (no earlier pre-trial meeting).

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  13th September 2016

        Fist court appearance ?

        Now, that’s a Freudian slip, if ever I heard one.

        • Pete Kane

           /  13th September 2016

          Good call Ms Kitty. I was taking the media’s stance on the ‘journey’ of the less privileged and their adventures. Actually I managed that bar for a while, as I said, (Band Barn really) at the back of the old Oriental, whilst at Law School down there.

  3. Blazer

     /  13th September 2016

    Bill Lieu aka,aka,…showed you that …’money talks…and b/s…walks’!Thats the way of…the world.

  4. Nelly Smickers

     /  13th September 2016

    Wayne was saying a mate of his in Queenstown appeared before *Judge Phillips* once…..sounds like quite a *colorful sort of character* by all accounts XD

  5. Pete Kane

     /  13th September 2016

    I was going to say, that’s all the mix needed.

  6. patupaiarehe

     /  13th September 2016

    Very fortunate for everyone involved, that the consequences of this assault were not a lot worse. 300 hours is a lot of community work, but that said he will probably end up doing it at the golf club his dad belongs to…. And $5k isn’t a lot of money to this family… Still, I don’t imagine Dad is too impressed, spending 300 hours as his caddy may well be a lot worse than a few months in the can….
    Being serious though, no-one wins by sending this kid to jail. What’s done is done, and it can’t be undone. IMHO jail should be reserved for those who the public need protecting from, and if he has sworn off alcohol, he is no longer a risk. I’m quite certain he realises that if anything like this happens again, he won’t be getting any sympathy from the court…

    • Pete Kane

       /  13th September 2016

      You are right of course PP – but it still irks. And there’s many additional ‘tariff’ options that could have applied (without incarceration).

      • patupaiarehe

         /  13th September 2016

        Yup it does, especially for that cop I imagine. Whilst most normal people would think that someone who knocks a woman out, then continues to punch her in the head, should be charged with ‘Assault with intent to injure’, a good defence lawyer would argue that someone who is ‘off their chops’ is incapable of forming said intent. Which is most likely why he wasn’t. That, really ‘irks’ me….

    • tim mclean

       /  14th September 2016

      Actually Nikolas was having wee beer at the end of a yacht race to Fiji in June- so much for sworn off alcohol. Could see this as the profile page on the Facebook for his old man’s boat but the site has gone down i the last day or so – funny that!

  7. Assaulting multiple people. Laying out a police office then smashing them further while knocked out = 300 hours community service.

    Look first offence – understand they line of trying a less severe sentence and going the rehabilitation route. BUT this was a multiple assault and including attacking a female officer. Its not a normal first strike offence and a message should have been sent – 2 years minimum custodial plus a large fine.

    If I was the family of the officer I would lay civil charges and seek a wad of cash as compensation for pain and suffering…

    • duperez

       /  13th September 2016

      Thank you for that.

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  14th September 2016

      Interesting comparison – the two assaults seem much of a muchness, not unlike each other – one ends in a 3 year and 5 month sentence of imprisonment, the other in 300 hrs of community work.

      Notwithstanding the complicating factor of benefit fraud, something seems awry in the comparison of sentences.

      This reminds me of Brock Turner’s six month sentence in the Stanford rape case.

      • Up North here you can get two years imprisonment for holding 600 grms of dope and two plants on your property … if you happen to be a young female pillar of the community …

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  14th September 2016

          Yes, that case was a disgrace to the justice system.

          • Pete Kane

             /  14th September 2016

            “Disgrace.” Certainly was. Interesting time differences. In the early mid 80s there was quite a differential in sentencing between the lower South Island, particularly Invercargill (but Timaru also comes to mind) and the North Island. . In this case the incarceration rate in the South was significantly higher than the North for similar offences. It was pretty widely discussed. Marijuana is actually a very easy comparison because you really can get almost ‘identical crimes’ – quanity, previous convictions, no mitigating issues re intoxication, intended force etc etc.

            • Pete Kane

               /  14th September 2016

              What (if there), was the end result in that case? Appealed? I assume if she was incarcerated it’s now parole?

            • Pete Kane

               /  14th September 2016

              Good. Actually I was about to be mischievous. We are all told we don’t really understand the differences in terms of one case and another – apples and oranges. Well taking the varying virtues of those fine fruit, how about Sonny Tau, kereru poacher and smuggler and Mrs Mum, cannabis smoker. (How are the kereru numbers up in North BTW?)

            • Pickled Possum

               /  14th September 2016

              A sweet couple of Kereru are nesting in our surrounding bush. Aerodynamics display is a pure joy to watch, those boy birds know how to show off all righty.
              As for the numbers it seems that they are no longer on the endangered list now that Sonny has had his wings clipped. 😉

  8. Let not the achievements of the father colour the way the son is treated. I have nothing but support for the very courageous Constable who did her duty and hope she makes a full recovery that will not interfere with her capacity as a constable. I see this as as a double strike against the accused: that is male assaults female; and person attacks police officer in the execution of her duty. The Judge has not really recognised that this young male is guilty of both offences that the community believes, unless I am mistaken, that a custodial sentence is warranted “pour encourager les autres.” Being a member of the Delegat family is irrelevant. Police should appeal against the award,