Filipo sentenced

Losi Filipo chose to plead guilty again and was sentenced today.

Stuff: Rugby player Losi Filipo ordered to do counselling under supervision sentence

Filipo’s earlier discharge without conviction on assault charges was overturned after an appeal by police, and he re-appeared on the charges in the High Court at Wellington on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old former Wellington Lions player maintained his guilty plea and asked to be sentenced immediately.

He was sentenced to nine months’ supervision for assaulting four people, including two women, and has been ordered to attend alcohol counselling, and a course on living without violence. 

In court, Justice David Collins had said the stomping on one victim’s head was “a chilling act of violence that could easily have led to his death”.

In the attack in central Wellington in October last year, Filipo grabbed his first victim, Greg Morgan, by the collar, punched him towards his head, knocking him unconscious. While Morgan was on the ground, he stomped on him about four times, causing injuries including concussion, grazing and bruising.

I think this is a reasonable outcome.

Punching someone and knocking them unconscious is bad enough, but then stomping on their head is despicable and very dangerous. and he went on to assault three other people. The original discharge was inadequate.

The judge took a starting point of two years’ jail and discounted for Filipo’s guilty plea, his youth, lack of previous convictions and the efforts he made after the incident with counselling, saving to pay reparation, doing community work and offering to apologise.

It makes sense to keep him out of prison providing he does the course and counselling properly.

There has to be a clear message that mindless violence should have consequences for the perpetrator – it can severely injury or kill victims.

I think that if Filipo offends violently again in the future he should expect a prison sentence.

But Madeleine Chapman at The Spinoff had a different view of the outcome – The conviction of teenager Losi Filipo is nothing to celebrate.

Congratulations, New Zealand. The court of public opinion has outdone any mere judge, delivering a punishment that reeks of knee-jerk outrage and lazy prejudice, writes Madeleine Chapman.

Losi Filipo was today re-sentenced to nine months’ supervision and counselling for assault. After being discharged without conviction earlier this year, the victims spoke out to the media and shared their side of the story. The public were outraged, threatening to boycott Wellington Rugby for allowing Filipo to remain in the programme, and calling for the sentencing to be appealed.

Wellington Rugby buckled, terminating Filipo’s contract, and the sentencing was overturned. Now Filipo has a conviction, no career, and few prospects given his name conjures up feelings of moral outrage, not to mention the google search nightmare which will forever be associated with it. Justice has finally been served, right?

What absolute bullshit.

I think the bullshit is in this article.

I think that Filipo stepped down from his contract. It’s unknown whether he will have a future career in rugby or not.

The original decision was appealed by the police, not the public. A judge considered things knowing there was a lot of public interest, and decided a discharge was the wrong decision.

The purpose of our justice system is to allow those who have in-depth knowledge of a case to make decisions on offenders based on countless mitigating factors. When someone is charged with an offence, they enter into the legal system and some time later, they exit the system with or without a conviction.

In that time, that all important time, a lot of things happen. Trials are undertaken, counsellors are met, references are consulted, and future repercussions are considered. Losi Filipo entered the justice system, went through all the relevant processes, cooperated fully, accepted his fault, committed to restorative justice, and was discharged without conviction.

That should be the end of the story. That is the justice system working.

No it shouldn’t be the end of the story, Sometimes judges get things wrong. That’s why we have an appeal system, so when questionable court decisions are made they can be tested further.

If he had been given nine months’ supervision and ordered to attend counselling the first time through the justice system, Filipo might strangely be in a better position than he is today. Because apparently an assault conviction isn’t as career-ending as his first judge thought.

That contradicts something she said earlier.

The Losi Filipo case has proven that more often than not, outrageous moral high ground comes before reason and way before compassion. A young man committed an offence, expressed remorse, attempted restorative justice, and was given a chance to be a positive influence in society. That same young man is now a convicted criminal, a known hated face and name without any apparent clear purpose in life, for the near future at least.

This is one case the appeal court found that the first judge got wrong, it’s ridiculous to claim “more often than not, outrageous moral high ground comes before reason” based on that alone.

Compassion resulted in Filipo avoiding a prison sentence despite committing a crime that was devoid of compassion.

Congratulations, New Zealand. You got what you wanted.

Yes, the justice system working as it was designed, able to correct things when poor decisions are made by judges, and able to make it clear that dangerous thuggery should not be let go without reasonable consequences.

Appeal allowed against Filipo discharge

Today a High Court judge allowed the appeal against Losi Filipo’s discharge without conviction.

The High Court’s decision to set aside the discharge without conviction for Losi Filipo’s assault on four people means the Wellington rugby player could face jail.

Filipo, 18, pleaded guilty to an early-morning assault, which happened last October, when he was still at school.

He escaped conviction when he appeared in Wellington District Court in August, when Judge Bruce Davidson took into account the effect on the rugby career of the Wellington under-19 wing and fringe member of the Lions squad.

An appeal by the Crown was heard by Justice David Collins yesterday.

In a judgment delivered this afternoon, he said the appeal should be allowed, and set aside the discharge without conviction.

Having set aside the discharge, Justice Collins said he would normally substitute the District Court’s decision with his own, but Filipo had only pleaded guilty due to the sentence indication that he would be discharged without conviction.

He would allow Filipo to vacate his guilty plea if he wanted to, in which case the matter will be sent back to the District Court for trial.

In Justice Collins opinion, the starting point for sentencing should be two to two and half years’ imprisonment.

In the ruling, Justice Collins notes an affidavit from the head of the police prosecution service stating Filipo’s victims had notified police that they believed an appeal should be filed because the “factual basis of the sentencing was inaccurate”.

The police prosecution service explained that either through an oversight or miscommunication within the police prosecution service, Filipo’s case was not referred to the Solicitor-General when it should have been.

Justice Collins also noted the sentencing judge did not refer to the fact Filipo stomped on the head of one victim.

“Those stomps were particularly serious and occurred when Gregory Morgan was already unconscious. This is the most disturbing aspect of Losi Filipo’s behaviour. It was potentially lethal conduct and required specific consideration,” Justice Collins said in his notes.

More from NZ Herald High Court allows appeal to Losi Filipo discharge without conviction ruling

So if Filipo chooses to reverse his guilty plea the case will go back to the District Court for trial, otherwise Justice Collins will sentence Filipo.

Link to the decision: Police v Filipo [2016] NZHC 2573 (27 October 2016)

JUDGMENT OF COLLINS J

A The application for an extension of time to seek leave to appeal is granted.

B The appeal is allowed.

C The discharge without conviction is set aside.

Proportionality

[82] Fourth, Losi Filipo’s offending was serious and the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction were not so significant as to have been out of all proportion to the gravity of his offending.

[83] I am therefore drawn to the conclusion the appeal should be allowed.

Next steps

[84] Having determined the appeal is allowed the immediate consequence is that the decision discharging Losi Filipo without conviction is set aside.

[85] Normally I would substitute the decision of the District Court with the decision that I believe should have been made. In this case that would result in convictions. However, in the present case, Losi Filipo pleaded guilty after being given a sentence indication that he would be discharged without conviction. In these circumstances, the appropriate course of action is to allow Losi Filipo the opportunity to vacate his guilty plea if he so wishes. If Losi Filipo wishes to vacate his guilty plea then the case will be remitted back to the District Court for trial.

[86] I will resume the hearing of the appeal at 9.30 am on 2 November 2016 to enable a decision to be made as to whether or not the case will need to be remitted back to the District Court or if any sentencing should be dealt with in this court.

Much fewer discharges without conviction

Statistics released today show that discharges without conviction have reduced significantly every year since 2010.

RNZ: Discharge without conviction numbers slump

Ministry of Justice figures show there were 3263 discharges without conviction in 2010. That number has fallen every year since, to 1872 last year.

Criminal Bar Association vice president Len Anderson said that was not surprising.

“It has become much more difficult to get a discharge without conviction. A few years ago, you could just go along to court and ask for it.

“Now it’s a very formalised process with affidavits, that is evidence in support, and you really have to demonstrate something quite out of the ordinary before you can get one.”

This is timely given the furore over a discharge without conviction.

The figures follow controversy around the case of Losi Filipo, a Wellington rugby player who was last month discharged without conviction for an assault on four people.

Anderson discusses issues related to this discharge.

“So far as career is concerned, you need to be able to establish that it will have an effect, not that it may have an effect. So if somebody has, say, an employment contract that is put in jeopardy, that’s obviously something the court will consider.

“One of the main things that keeps people out of trouble is having a job and if the person is likely to lose their job as result of a conviction, that is obviously an important factor and important consequence that other people wouldn’t face.

“If you take the rugby player situation, a rugby player with a contract who’s at risk of losing it would be in a different position to a promising rugby player who would hope to get a contract in the future.”

From the sound of what Rugby Union spokespeople had said and provided in character references there was no risk of Filipo losing his contract. However Filipo gave up his contract yesterday after widespread criticism.

Raging over Losi Filipo

Losi Filipo was lucky to escape conviction for a brutal assault on four people.

Losi Filipo was unlucky to escape conviction for a brutal assault on four people because the furore that has erupted as a result has put a disproportional degree of publicity on what happened.

Late yesterday Filipo ended his rugby contract with the Wellington Lions, presumably to try and dampen things down.

He was in a hopeless situation anyway as if he had played there would have been a huge media distraction.

His playing future must be in doubt, as it is likely that any sign of violence is likely to be highlighted and amplified.

While he escaped a conviction and sentence from the court his public sentence is probably disproportionately severe. A fine and some community service would have probably been easier on him.

There’s a lot of violent crime in New Zealand and most of it escapes much if any scrutiny, it is normal life in New Zealand.

So Filipo is suffering more than normal, and that is likely to continue for some time, especially if he tries to play high level rugby again.

In a way this may seem disproportionately unfair.

But the violence he inflicted on four people was also very unfair. Many many New Zealanders are unfairly affected by violence. Many have their lives wrecked by violence.

So while Filipo may be effectively suffering greater consequences than the average thug  greater good may be served by his public sentence.

It has raised public awareness of the insidious effects of violence in our society.

What needs to happen now is a much better response from New Zealand Rugby. Many rugby players and lovers will be dismayed that their sport keeps getting tainted by thuggery.

The Rugby Union has to stand up here and do far more to distance the sport from thuggish violence. It has to lead on dealing with it, not flail in response to a string of embarrassments.

Filipo’s rugby career may have been trashed – largely due to his own actions – and his sport has been trashed with it.

But NZRFU could use this to make a real stand against violence, if the so choose.

They and the media and the people of New Zealand can stop raging over violence and do something about reducing it.

Discharged without conviction for 4x assault

I wonder how the pakeha versus brown justice debate will treat this story.

Stuff: Wellington rugby player discharged without conviction

Wellington rugby player Losi Filipo was discharged without conviction following the assault of four people, including two women.

Police charged Filipo with assault with intent to injure, two counts of male assaults female, and injures with intent to injure following the incident.

However, Newshub said the judge opted to give Filipo a chance despite the charges demanding a starting point of at least one-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.

The Judge ruled Filipo should be able to fulfil his potential, saying  “I have to ask myself are the courts in the business of destroying people’s career prospects?”, Newshub reported.

This is not long after the much discussed case of a ‘rich white person’ who was convicted – see The Delegat sentence.

The Wellington Lions player is continuing to play for the Wellington Rugby Union after he was discharged without conviction over the assault of Greg Morgan and his three friends.

Morgan, 21, said the assault happened in October at about 3am on Wellington’s Wakefield St.

“We heard footsteps running up behind us and it was three guys looking for a fight. We repeatedly told them we didn’t want to fight and to just let us go to our car which was around the corner.

“And that’s when it started, I don’t remember much but I do remember being smashed on the ground and my head being stomped on.”

Morgan said he had a potential contract with Wellington Rugby, but following the assault he was told he could never play rugby again.

He was devastated to see the guy who took away his dream go without punishment.

“We had the same potential and it doesn’t feel right that I’m still dealing with migraines and fatigue, and he is enjoying playing rugby.”

“It’s still affecting my work and put a big dent in my builders apprenticeship.

“I feel he should have got some jail time because he’s a ticking time bomb and if he does it again he might kill someone.”

I presume this was a ‘first offence’ for Filipo that went before the Court.

But there was a white male who have Filipo a character reference – the mayor of Upper Hutt.

Upper Hutt Mayor Wayne Guppy wrote a character reference helping a promising rugby player to be discharged without conviction for a brutal assault.

Guppy declined to say who had asked him to write the reference for Filipo, but said he did not speak with the rugby player himself at any time.

I don’t know if the timing will help Guppy’s re-election chances.