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.

Dear New Zealand Rugby management and board members,

An open letter to the NZ Rugby Union:

Dear New Zealand Rugby management and board members,

Right now, thousands of New Zealanders are questioning the culture of our country’s favourite sport and those in charge of it.

We are writing to you publicly in the hope that you will listen to our calls for you to act with courage.

The internal investigation into an incident involving a woman called Scarlette and members of the Chiefs rugby team has highlighted to all New Zealanders that NZ Rugby’s judiciary process is not appropriate for dealing with issues of integrity, mana, respect and basic personal rights.

We are offering our expertise, experience and support.  Louise Nicholas has been working alongside NZ Police to successfully enhance their internal culture for some time now. We encourage you to do the same.  Dr Jackie Blue offered to assist a month ago and this offer still stands.

Rugby is like a religion in New Zealand, with players worshipped by young kiwis throughout the country.  NZ Rugby could not operate without thousands of women volunteers and players in clubs and towns across the country: we must address the culture that exists from the top down and set the right example, particularly for our young New Zealanders.

Now is the time for you and those involved in the incident with Scarlette to be courageous and to take personal leadership on an issue that we can all work on addressing together.

As much as New Zealanders love rugby – we need New Zealanders to respect women.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Signed by,


…many people, see the list here and you can also sign it yourself if you want to.

There are currently 3,295 signatures. Make that 3,317 now, including mine.

I loved playing rugby, and liked refereeing to an extent, and still love watching it. But some of the ‘rugby culture’, especially involving booze and women, was and still is ugly. I support positive change.