Infidelity, assault, discharge, appeal

An interesting case down this way involving a family, infidelity, multiple assaults when discovered, a prosecution, a discharge without conviction, and now an appeal against that discharge.

Discovering infidelity of a spouse or partner would understandably be upsetting to may people, but is violence an unacceptable response?

We have a major societal problem, especially involving men, where adverse situations result in violence against others or against themselves (like suicides ,and domestic assaults including murder).

ODT:  Appeal sought on assault discharge

The Crown has applied for leave to appeal discharges without conviction granted to a man who assaulted his best friend, wife and daughter in Queenstown last year.

The 58-year-old Central Lakes man, who has name suppression, had earlier admitted assaulting his wife, daughter and best friend on September 14, having discovered a text between his wife and friend declaring their undying love for each other.

Ultimately, Judge Brandts-Giesen found the gravity of the man’s offending was low to moderate and the consequences of convictions were out of proportion.

A problem is that “low to moderate” violence can easily have serious unintended consequences, and can easily escalate  into very serious situations.

At the time he said while on one level it was a ”nasty assault”, on another it had to be seen in context and there would be ”many people who would have done exactly what you did, even though it might be against the law to do so”.

That is alarming. He is excusing violent assault on a highly questionable “many people who would have done exactly what you did”. Many people have to deal with infidelity and relationship breakups, and the vast majority don’t lash out violently, and that sort of reaction should not be portrayed as a normal reaction by the Court.

The man left the bar when he saw the text message, but then encountered the male victim in the CBD.

He assaulted his friend and then when his daughter intervened he grabbed her around the throat, pushed her down and held her there, causing bruising.

When the defendant’s wife stepped in, he pushed her and she fell to the ground.

Ms Thomas submitted the matter ”became derailed” during the gravity assessment because Judge Brandts-Giesen appeared to consider the offending or surrounding circumstances ”unusual”.

”Infidelity of itself is not an unusual phenomenon in society.

”Nor, in my respectful submission, is the discovery of infidelity.

”Nor is it … in the context of domestic violence, or when assessing gravity, unusual that there may be actions arising … out of what’s seen as infidelity and the finding of infidelity.

”The sad reality … of domestic offending that the courts grapple with daily … is that it’s not unusual at all.

”The learned district court judge erred in … allowing mitigating factors to be taken into account … that he ought not to have.”

Having made that error, she submitted he erred further in assessing the consequences of convictions.

That will be for the appeal court to decide, if leave for appeal is granted – the High Court judge reserved his decision.

Although Ms Denton agreed infidelity was not unusual, ”in [the defendant’s] world, it was”.

The defendant had known the male victim longer than his wife, his reaction that night ”was very unusual” and described it as ”visceral”.

”He did not see the situation coming”.

Many people do not see situations like this coming, but most do not react violently.

With regard to the more serious assault on his daughter, Ms Denton said it was not ”a traditional domestic violence incident” and he had no idea whom he had grabbed until after the incident.

”He only became aware it was his daughter when she came up to him afterwards and said. ‘Dad, look at what you’ve just done to me’.”

That sounds like he was out of control. Anything could have happened – anyone could have been harmed, potentially very seriously.

People get convicted for far less – for example for things like momentary carelessness when driving. They are prosecuted for the potential risk to others, even if there is no actual harm done.

It will be interesting to see how this appeal progresses, if leave for appeal is granted.

Collins staunch with Slater

Judith Collins has reiterated her friendship with Cameron Slater and won’t condemn his “dirty politics”. Radio NZ reports:

Judith Collins digs in over Dirty Politics

Justice Minister Judith Collins is defending her friendship with right-wing blogger, Cameron Slater, saying she supports her friends no matter what.

She has admitted emailing details about public servant Simon Pleasants, including his personal phone number, to Mr Slater in 2009.

Mr Pleasants was subsequently abused on Mr Slater’s Whale Oil blog and also received death threats.

…she told Radio New Zealand she did not condone the death threats.

She would not say whether she approved of Mr Slater’s post.

Ms Collins refused to be drawn on whether she had effectively facilitated cyber-bullying by passing on Mr Pleasants’ details.

Obviously she couldn’t condone death threats but by not condemning how the information she supplied was used she appears to remain complicit.

Friendship defended

Ms Collins last night also defended her friendship with Mr Slater.

“Just because he is a friend of mine – as by the way are many hundreds of other people – does not mean to say that I condone everything that anybody who is a friend of mine does,” she said.

“That is the nature of friendship. You put up with your friends no matter what if you’re a loyal friend. And I’m a very loyal person.”

Loyalty to friends can be important but by refusing to distance herself from Slater’s behaviour she remains severely tainted by association with his dirty politics. Slater is now politically toxic.

Mark Mitchell, National MP for Rodney, is distancing himself, denying he paid Slater for assistance in his successful candidacy bid in 2011. See Conflicting claims over National’s Rodney selection.

Collin’s political career looks like being on life support so she may feel she has nothing more to lose by being seen to be remaining closely associated to Slater. That’s her call.

Slater often talks about one of his ‘rules’ – if you wrestle with pigs you’ll get dirty and the pig will enjoy it. Slater obviously enjoys getting dirty.

Collins has chosen to remain closely associated with this.

It’s a shame that Collins has been and remains tainted. By many accounts she has generally been a more than competent Minister of Justice.

In my own limited experience with Collins she has been approachable and helpful – earlier this year I asked for some information and she arranged for it to be provided – no OIA involved. Few ministers respond to requests like this.

But she has done a number of unwise things. The latest to be highlighted, and her continued loyalty to a friend who likes playing dirty means mud remains stuck to Collins as well.

She should hold her electorate easily as she got a close to 10,000 majority in Papakura last election.

She is currently Minsister of Justice, ACC and Ethnic Affairs and is National’s fifth ranked Minister, and is number 6 on their party list for this election. But it is predicted that if National retain power John Key will have to reduce her position and responsibilities.

It could be very awkward for National to have someone closely associated with Slater making the final decision (as Minister of Justice) on Kim Dotcom’s extradition – Slater has been waging a bitter public battle against Dotcom.

Collins is on a last last chance with Key and by continuing to remain staunch with Slater she may well be seen as a high risk and a liability, especially for a third term government.

If Collins lasts until and survives the election we’ll see then how she fares. And from then through the term whether her remaining staunch with Slater drags her (and National) down further.

Sticking by friends is laudable, but sticking by mud may tank her political career.