Julian Assange sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment

Julian Assange has been sentenced  to 50 weeks imprisonment in the UK on charges of skipping bail, which he did by holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden. So he has moved from a virtual prison into a real prison.

Reuters: Julian Assange sentenced to 50 weeks in British jail for skipping bail

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison by a British court on Wednesday for skipping bail when he holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for seven years until police dragged him out last month.

The case in Britain arose after Australian-born Assange, 47, was accused by two Swedish women of sexual assault and rape in 2010. Assange fought through the courts to get an extradition order and the preliminary investigation dropped.

Assange sought refuge in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid an extradition order to Sweden.

His lawyer argued it was an act of desperation to avoid being passed to the United States to face action over the release of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

But handing down what was nearly the maximum possible sentence, Judge Deborah Taylor told Assange he had exploited his privileged position to flout the law and express his disdain for British justice.

“Whilst you may have had fears as to what may happen to you, nonetheless you had a choice,” Taylor told Assange, dressed in a black jacket and gray sweatshirt, at Southwark Crown Court.

“It is difficult to envisage a more serious example of this offence.”

And Assange still faces the possibility he will be extradited to the US.

Reuters: U.S. extradition request for Julian Assange to be heard on Thursday

A request by the United States to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for one of the biggest ever leaks of classified information will be heard by a London court on Thursday.

“Julian Assange will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court at 1030 tomorrow for ‘violating his bail conditions’ whilst seeking & obtaining political asylum,” WikiLeaks said.

“On Thursday at 10AM there will be a hearing in Westminster Magistrate Court on the US extradition request,” it said.

The U.S. Justice Department said Assange was charged with conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to gain access to a government computer as part of a 2010 leak by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of U.S. military reports about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and American diplomatic communications.

With the defence support he is likely to have this could be a lengthy process.




The first Manafort sentencing

Paul Manafort was sentenced on eight counts including tax and bank fraud in the US yesterday. He received a much lighter sentence than prosecutors had asked for, which was seen by some as some sort of victory, or a defeat for the Mueller inquiry, but it was still substantial. It included:

  • 47 months imprisonment
  • $50,000 fine
  • Must pay $25 million in restitution
  • 3 years of supervised release after his prison term

The Monetary penalties may not be a big deal if Manafort can afford to pay them, but I think the prison sentence is actually substantial and onerous. Especially for someone who has never been in trouble with the law before, nearly four years in prison is a very big deal.

Prison sentence numbers get thrown around these days as if years don’t matter. For someone who has never been there before months in prison would be a big deal, let alone years.

CBS News: Manafort sentenced to under 4 years in prison, far less than prosecutors sought

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis handed down the sentence in federal court in Virginia Thursday afternoon. He said Manafort committed “undeniably serious” crimes and expressed surprise that he did not “express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct.”

But Ellis also said the government’s recommendation of 19.5 to 24 years behind bars was “unwarranted” and “excessive,” adding that Manafort has “lived an otherwise blameless life.”

Perhaps ‘an otherwise uncaught life’ would be closer to the mark.

An attorney from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office told the court Manafort “failed to accept responsibility and is not remorseful.” In recent weeks Manafort’s legal team had requested a “significantly” lower sentence than the length recommended by prosecutors.

Before learning his fate, Manafort addressed the court, telling Ellis his life is in “shambles” and asking for leniency.

“The last two years have been the most difficult of my lif. To say I am humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.”

After his conviction in Virginia, Manafort struck a plea deal to avoid a second trial on conspiracy charges in Washington, D.C. A federal judge determined in Februaryhe had breached his plea agreement by lying to the government.

Judge T.S. Ellis said Manafort committed “undeniably serious” crimes and expressed surprise that Manafort did not “express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct.”

“You should have remorse for that,” Ellis said.

Some seem to think that celebrations are in order for a relatively light sentence, but while I think Manafort may be relieved, he won’t have much to celebrate about for quite a while. Time already in custody will come off the time left to serve, but it will still be a tough time ahead for him.

Bill Cosby sentenced to prison, counselling for life

After being found guilt of drugging and sexually assaulting a victim Bill Cosby has been sentenced to prison and lifetime counselling. The victim is just one of many woman who have claimed that Cosby assaulted them.

RNZ:  Bill Cosby sentenced to prison for sex assault

Cosby, 81, has also been categorised as a sexually violent predator, meaning he must undergo counselling for life and be listed on the sex offender registry.

At a retrial in April, Cosby was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault for drugging and molesting Andrea Constand in 2004.

Ahead of the sentence, Judge Steven O’Neill designated Cosby a sexually violent predator, despite the defence’s argument that Cosby’s age and blindness mean he is not a threat.

Tuesday’s classification means he will need to register with state police and notify any community he lives in of his sex offender status, as well as undergo mandatory counselling for life.

The actor’s defence team had argued the state’s sex offender law was too severe given Cosby’s age and the fact that he is legally blind.

The comedian was arrested in 2015 and a deadlocked jury resulted in a mistrial in June 2017.

This year’s retrial occurred amid the #MeToo movement that has seen people worldwide come forward to share stories of sexual harassment and assault.

Justice has been served to some extent on an alleged long term serial offender.

Lack of evidence longer sentences deter crime

Do longer prison sentences deter people from committing crimes? Any evidence is lacking.

NZH – The High Court judge’s challenge: Show me the evidence long sentences put people off committing crime

Justice Matthew Palmer told lawyers ahead of sentencing he wanted them to come to court with evidence longer sentences actually had the deterrent effect the law told him to consider.

Days later, defence lawyers came with research showing it didn’t work.

The Crown turned up with nothing.

The sentencing notes of Justice Palmer reflect concern around the lack of evidence in an area which the Sentencing Act 2002 says should be considered when judges consider how long to send people to jail.

It follows research by the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser this year which studied tough-on-crime laws and found “there is no evidence of the supposed ‘deterrent’ effect of harsher sentences”.

“On the contrary, these political decisions appear to drive up the prison population and put further costs on the taxpayer.”

Annabel Maxwell-Scott, Chevonne Wellington’s lawyer, cited studies show “long sentences are not effective in deterring others or the offenders themselves”.

She produced research showing there was a higher likelihood of repeat offending for drug crimes when someone was sentenced to prison rather than non-prison sentences.

People using drugs are driven by their addictions, so the possibility of being sentenced is unlikely to deter them.

Victoria University criminologist Dr Liam Martin said the theory of deterrence argued along two strands – that the wider community was put off committing crime because of long sentences and that the individual sent to prison did not commit further crime because of the length of sentence.

He said the idea the broader community was dissuaded from criminal offending was impossible to measure.

However, he said there was a large body of evidence showing individuals were not deterred by long sentences and some studies showed those people went on to commit more crime.

However there are obviously non-drug related offences, and also other factors when considering sentences. For example if people are in prison they can’t commit crimes.

First ‘third strike’ maximum sentence

A man has been sentenced to a maximum term (for the charge) of seven years in prison with no parole, for stabbing someone in the leg. If it hadn’t been a third strike offence it would have qualified for a prison sentence in the 2-3 year range.

It is the first time the ‘manifestly unjust’ out clause has not been invoked.

Two previous third strike sentences were not applied because the third convictions were both low end indecent assaults that would not on their own have justified prison sentences (indecent assaults can range in severity a lot).

This explanation of the sentencing gives an idea of the procedure judges go through to arrive at an appropriate sentence. This also shows how the judge has considered the intent of Parliament for three strikes.

Summary of offending

[3] On 4 January 2018, you were drinking alcohol with several associates at the Marton Hotel, where you were living while on bail. There is evidence you had been drinking for seven to eight hours. An argument broke out between you and the victim,
who believed you had stolen his phone. The victim was sitting next to you on a couch. You produced a knife with a retractable blade and stabbed the victim in the leg about 20 cm below his knee. This happened without any warning and produced a wound
approximately 2 cm in length, and 0.5 cm deep, into the victim’s calf muscle, which required medical attention including three sutures.

You were described by police who arrived at the scene as being belligerent, aggressive and intoxicated.

Appropriate sentence but for s 86D

[9] I begin by addressing the sentence I would have given you, if this were not your third-strike offence.

[10] The Court of Appeal’s decision in R v Nuku is the leading sentencing guideline judgment for offences such as wounding with intent to injure. Your offending falls on the cusp of sentencing bands two and three, which means that a starting point between two and three years’ imprisonment is warranted for your offending.

[13] Mr Mallalieu, for the Crown, and Mr Crowley, your counsel, agree that a starting point of around two and a half years’ imprisonment would have been warranted. I am also satisfied that a starting point of two years and six months’ imprisonment would have been appropriate.

[14] You have several previous convictions for violent offending. Most seriously, you were given a sentence of home detention for another instance of wounding with intent to injure in 2012. However, your violent offending has continued, and earlier this year you were sentenced to imprisonment for assault. Mr Crowley accepts that an uplift would have been necessary to reflect your previous convictions. You were also on bail at the time of your offending. I would have considered an uplift of six months appropriate in the circumstances.

[19] As you pleaded guilty, I would have been willing to give you the full 25 per cent discount for entering an early guilty plea.

[20] This would have resulted in an end sentence of two years and three months’ imprisonment. This means that you would have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, regardless of the three strikes regime.

[21] I will now consider whether it would be manifestly unjust to order that you serve your sentence without parole. I am not convinced that it would be grossly disproportionate to make such an order in your circumstances. Your offending sits in the mid-range of wounding with intent to injure. This is not a case where your offending is insignificant compared to a maximum sentence that was designed to cover a wide variety of behaviour, as was the case in R v Campbell and R v Fitzgerald, both of which concerned indecent assaults that otherwise would not have attracted sentences of imprisonment at all. As I have already noted, absent the three strikes regime, you would have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment in excess of two years.

[22] I acknowledge that your sentence will be much harsher than I would otherwise have imposed, however, that will invariably be the case for a third-strike offence. Parliament deliberately designed a harsh response to offenders who persistently commit serious offences despite clear warnings. I have not been presented with any evidence that would suggest you were incapable of understanding the two warning previous given to you in 2012 and 2014.

[23] The Court of Appeal has emphasised that the manifestly unjust exception will only be engaged in clear and convincing cases.
While such cases might not be rare, as many offences encompass a wide variety of behaviour, it would be contrary to Parliament’s intent for the courts to routinely invoke the exception as a matter of course. Some regard must be given to the fact that Parliament anticipated that some degree of disproportion would inevitably be involved in a regime such as this.

[25] I have reached the conclusion that this is not a clear and convincing case to depart from the full effects of the three strikes regime. This conclusion is based in part because I consider that you are at a high-risk of reoffending and there is a need for
community protection. Your previous three strike offences, and the pattern of behaviour they demonstrate, are very telling.

(1) Your first-strike offence was for the same charge as the present offence. You jointly assaulted a victim, along with your father, by repeatedly punching his head and body with closed fists. The victim was also kicked in the face. You also used pieces of wood to strike the victim. The victim suffered a fractured nose, lacerations to his forehead, scalp and one of his fingers, and a fracture to that finger. The victim experienced on-going problems relating to his nose and finger. The
pre-sentence reports for this offence described you as having little insight into the implications of your offending. The sentencing Judge described them as disturbing to read.

(2) Your second-strike offence, while for a different kind of offending, was more serious than your first-strike offence. You followed a 17-year-old girl as she was walking home. She either tripped or was pushed to the ground. You indecently assaulted her and forcibly pulled down her underwear while telling her to calm down. You then forcefully penetrated her genitalia with your finger. She screamed and yelled for help, begging you not to hurt her further. You also threw her cell phone away during the attack. You attempted to remove your pants with one hand while holding her with the other. At this stage, the victim managed to bite your forearm and fortunately, she managed to escape. Your offending had major negative emotional impacts on the victim. The pre-sentence report for this offence described you as reluctant to even discuss the incident. It also concluded there was no evidence of remorse and that you displayed no emotion.

[26] While your previous three strike offences were for different charges, they both share a common feature with your present offending; that is the fact that in every case you instigated the offending without warning. It is equally disturbing that the presentence reports for both of your previous “strike” offences record your lack of remorse and insight into your actions. Thankfully, you now appear to be beginning to understand that you have a problem. Nevertheless, your continued resort to violence while in custody demonstrates that you have not yet fully come to grips with your violent tendencies.

[27] All three of these offences occurred within a period of approximately six and half years. You continued to offend on each occasion shortly after the end of your previous sentence. You did this even after you were warned about the consequences.

[28] In those circumstances, it is fair to say you are at a high-risk of re-offending, which is confirmed by the assessment in the pre-sentence report. There is a clear need to protect the community from you; one of the central purposes of the three strikes regime. For that reason, I do not consider that it would be manifestly unjust to order that you serve your sentence without parole.

[30] I am sentencing you to seven years’ imprisonment.

[31] That sentence will be served without parole.

R v Waitokia 
21 August 2018
[2018] NZHC 2146

ACT: reduced prison sentence for education

Policy announcement: Rewarding self improvement in prisons

“Prisoners should be able to earn a reduction in their overall sentence by successfully completing literacy, numeracy, and driver licensing courses. This would provide an incentive for prisoners to upskill and ready themselves for a normal, non-criminal life outside of prison.”

Stuff: ACT to reward prisoners with reduced sentences for learning to read in prison

Offenders who study basic numeracy and literacy courses in prison should be rewarded with time shaved off their sentences, ACT leader David Seymour says.

Prisoners who entered prison with a higher level of education should also be eligible for incentives if they act as mentors to other prisoners and help them learn.

Seymour announced the policy at the party’s annual conference at Auckland’s Orakei Bay on Saturday, where he told a packed room of about 120 of the party’s rank and file, prisoners needed “positive incentives” to better themselves.

The ACT policy would see prisoners rewarded with a sentence-reduction of up to six weeks per year, for attaining literacy and numeracy skills in line with National standards, as well as driver licensing courses.

So a prisoner on a three-year sentence could earn up to a capped rate of 18 weeks off their time in prison, if they completed courses of sufficient value.

The policy would not apply to the worst violent or sexual offenders, and it would not help white-collar criminals to study diplomas or degrees. ACT was also proposing to cut red tape to make it easier for some volunteers to gain approval to carry out work in prisons.

According to Seymour, 48 per cent of prisoners had been returned to prison in the past four years. Of all prisoners, about 70 per cent had low levels of literacy and numeracy, and of the more-than 10,000 people in prison, 3240 participated in a programme in 2016.

There was no incentive for prisoners to take responsibility for their own success, said Seymour.

And guest speaker at the conference, Mike Williams supports it.

The Howard League for Penal Reform chief executive Mike Williams said it was a welcome policy, that would make a difference.

The league is an organisation that works for a more “humane” prison system, and already runs literacy courses in prisons.

Williams – a former Labour Party president – spoke to the conference about the work of the league and the cases it deals with.

“Our course is 12 weeks [to teach someone to read]. In 90 per cent of cases that works – we have had occasions where it’s taken a lot longer, and once we’ve had to teach the alphabet.”

The league carries out its work with the help of volunteers, and Williams said it could be done relatively cheaply. The chance of a reduced sentence, combined with force of their peers learning to read and work with numbers would “inspire” many prisoners.

“Illiteracy is particularly important to them, but what we know is that every one of them wants to get out of jail. It’s not a motel, they don’t want to be there.

“So the possibility of a shorter sentence is a very strong incentive to improve yourself, and I understand that it’s been tried and proven in California.”

Positive incentives make sense. More education = shorter sentences seems a good idea.

See in brief: ACT will reward self-improvement in prisons

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.

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.


…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.


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.

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.