Delegat case and rushing to judgment

The Police and then the Court took 18 months to charge Nikilas Delegat and process his case through our legal system. They rejected Delegat’s attempts to get name suppression and to get a discharge without conviction.

The resulting sentence has been widely criticised.

Labour MP Stuart Nash wants the Police Minister Judith Collins to intervene – Newstalk ZB: Stuart Nash: Govt should intervene in Delegat case

Labour’s Police spokesman Stuart Nash has called on Police Minister Judith Collins to direct the Crown to appeal the Nikolas Delegat sentence.

Nash said the Government should tell the Crown Law Office to appeal the “ridiculously light” sentence handed down to Nikolas Delegat for the assault.

Nash wants Ms Collins to speak publicly about the sentence, given her strong comments about assaults on police in 2010.

But…

…Ms Collins said she could not comment on the Delegat case because it was a judicial decision which was still within the period in which an appeal could be lodged.

“I’m not going to pre-empt that. That would be to interfere in the operation of the courts, it would be a breach of the Cabinet manual and could, in fact, completely stuff up any appeal rights that the Crown might have.”

As I understand things Collins is right and Nash should now how our judicial system works and how the Government should not interfere in the process, at least not unless exception circumstances are involved and certainly not if an opposition MP rushes in and grandstands straight after a sentence is announced.

Today’s Herald editorial: Delegat case – system must resist rush to judgment

The sentence given to Nikolas Delegat for assaulting a policewoman has been widely condemned.

An alcohol-fuelled Delegat hit Kane at least four times on March 26 last year. In the same incident, Delegat attacked a security guard at the University of Otago campus and lashed out at arresting police officers. He first appeared in court five days after the attack when he was charged with the aggravated assault of Kane, an offence carrying a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment.

The Appeal Court dismissed Delegat’s suppression case last November and the case went back to the Dunedin District Court in June, when the aggravated assault charge was downgraded to assaulting a police officer with intent to obstruct her in the execution of her duty. The offence carries a three-year jail term.

Delegat admitted the charge but this week Judge Kevin Phillips rejected his plea for a discharge without conviction for what he termed “a very serious assault”. The judge also was critical of Delegat’s approach to a restorative justice conference, saying the teenager had 18 months to do something about it.

The response has been widespread and vocal.

Critics of the sentence complain it is too light. Greg O’Connor, president of the Police Association, said if Delegat had been poor and brown and from South Auckland, he would have gone to jail. Labour MP Stuart Nash wants Crown Law to appeal the judgment.

But…

Delegat is a first offender, and his sentence does not appear out of line, whatever the Police Association might have to say. Critics of the sentence were not present for the hearing, and do not possess all the facts. It is appropriate that decisions of the courts get public scrutiny. It is just as appropriate that the system resists any rush to judgment.

Delegat may appeal, and the Crown may appeal. These things take longer than a reactive social media and grandstanding politicians.

Whether the sentence was appropriate or not is up for the parties involved to consider and accept or oppose as they see fit, through the Court, not through the cauldron of public and political opinion.

Lawyer Graeme Edgeler responded to some of the reactions.

Newshub: Why was Delegat’s sentence so much lighter than Maikuku’s?

Because if it was the same, he’d have gotten 50% more than the maximum penalty for the charge he faced?

What sentence should a 1st time offender get if they plead guilty to an offence carrying a 6 month maximum sentence?

  • 9 months’ prison
  • something else

NZ Herald: Police Association: If Nikolas Delegat were poorer he would have received a harsher sentence

If he were poorer, he probably wouldn’t have made the news.

 

Lawyer disputes criticism of Delegat sentence

A Dunedin barrister has that the sentence given to Nikolas Delegat for assaulting a police officer was ”entirely consistent” for the type of offence.

ODT: Claim Delegat got rich person’s justice disputed has a mixed response from  New Zealand Police Association president Greg O’Connor who said…

…if Delegat had been from the ”other end of the socio-economic scale”, the sentence would have included jail time, or something closer to it.

A ”high-powered lawyer” could help someone get a lighter sentence, he said.

The sentence had caused ”general disquiet” among some police officers in Dunedin, especially given the severity of injuries sustained by Const Kane.

However, Judge Kevin Phillips needed to be commended for resisting the ”considerable pressure” to grant name suppression and discharge without conviction, Mr O’Connor said.

But Dunedin barrister Anne Stevens said…

…the claim Delegat had bought justice was ”outrageous”.

She had been a lawyer for 29 years and the sentence was ”entirely consistent” for the type of offence, committed by someone with no previous convictions and otherwise good character, and who had pleaded guilty.

”It’s nothing to do with his parents’ wealth, it’s nothing to do with the colour of his skin; it’s to do with his culpability and his character.”

The conviction was a ”serious outcome”, Mrs Stevens said.

”He wants to sail in other parts of the world and it will be a big burden for him.”

The sentence had nothing to do with Delegat’s choice of lawyer, she said.

”Any number of lawyers in Dunedin would have achieved the same result … some of them, I dare say, would have got a discharge.”

Judges take many things into account when sentencing and they know much more than the average public pundit. I think this case would have been very carefully considered by Judge Phillips given that Delegat was represented by an out of town lawyer (from Auckland).

This sentence may or may not be tested under appeal.

But it’s probably too late to appeal for reasoned and well informed discussion of this case.

Delegat apology but will consider appeal

The Delegat family issued a statement of apology on behalf of Nikolas Delegat to NZ Herald. This is included in an ODT article Rich-lister’s son apologises

In a statement released to the Herald on behalf of the Delegat family, Nikolas Delegat apologised for the harm he has caused.

“Nikolas takes full responsibility for his actions that night,” it says.

“He attended a restorative justice conference where he expressed his remorse, and he again apologises to the police officer, university security guard and all others concerned.

“Nikolas was in the first two month of his university study away from home in Dunedin.

“He made a bad decision in the heat of the moment which caused considerable harm to those affected, which he regrets.

“He also apologises to his family and those around him for the trouble he has caused them.”

But Delegat’s lawyer Mark Ryan said that an appeal against the conviction and sentence (he sought a discharge without conviction).

However, Mr Ryan confirmed Delegat, his family and legal team had an “open mind” about the possibility of appealing the sentence and conviction.

“I can’t rule that out,” he told the Otago Daily Times after the hearing. “It’s something that we’ll consider. `I will discuss it with my client and his family and see which way we go on that.”

While the sentence seems relatively light given the seriousness of the assault…

Delegat was sentenced to 300 hours community work for the police assault, 100 hours for assaulting a campus watch officer, 60 hours for wilful damage, and 60 hours for resisting arrest. He has also been ordered to pay $5000 emotional harm reparation to the police officer he punched.

…the impact of the conviction could be significant:

His lawyer said a conviction would prevent Delegat from becoming a licensed authorised financial adviser under the Financial Markets Authority – a career which he was pursuing – and from entering the United States to compete in yacht races.

But Judge Kevin Phillips rejected that due to the impact the attack had on Constable Kane…

…resulting in 15 hours of hospital treatment, several weeks off-duty, months of recuperation and ongoing issues with headaches. Kane is still being helped by colleagues on her road back to work, 18 months after the attack.

`Tell me about his financial position,” Judge Phillips said to Mr Ryan.

“He’s able to pay a fine,” Mr Ryan responded.

“I’m not talking about a fine. I’m talking about emotional harm reparation. This has almost destroyed her life,” the judge said.

Alcohol was involved, as it is in a lot of violent crime. But alcohol can’t excuse this sort of violence:

Judge Phillips said Delegat punched Const Kane with enough force to “render that officer into a state of unconsciousness”.

“[He] then punched her another three or four times … all aimed at the head,” he said.

The other responding officer, Constable Keith Early, described the violence of the assault in evidential briefs referenced by Judge Phillips, saying Delegat was “absolutely smashing her”.

For someone to react that viciously, whether drunk or not, there must have been some underlying tendency towards reactive violence. Many people who get drunk don’t get violent, but far too many do.

Delegat may have “made a bad decision in the heat of the moment”, and that may impact on his life significantly from now on, but his actions have also had a serious immediate and ongoing impact on the person he attacked, and could have easily been much worse due to his recklessness and viciousness.

Unfortunately this sort of violence and damage to people’s health and well being is common. This is just one case that happens to have received a lot of publicity and criticism, but violent crime goes through the courts day after day, week after week, year after year.

Something must change. Many people’s behaviour must change, and many more people’s attitude to violence must change. Same with alcohol use and abuse.

We are all a part of a far too violent society. Grizzling about the occasional case that gets media attention isn’t enough.

Here on Your NZ we can all do something about it, by not reacting badly to issues or people we disagree with, by not proposing or portraying violence as if it is acceptable, by not posting personal attacks (which can amount to a form of online violence), and by confronting violent behaviour – not with violent responses, but reminding of the need for respect of others and  the need for responsible behaviour.

And by setting an appropriate non-violent, non threatening example. We all have a part to play in this forum and in our society.

Nikolas Delegat and Constable Kane have had their lives significantly affected a few moments of deplorable violence. We can all learn from the resulting publicity.