Nikolas Delegat sentencing fair, QC says
The controversial sentence given to Nikolas Delegat isn’t out of the ordinary and is only being hotly debated because he’s the son of an NBR Rich Lister.
So says a Queen's Counsel, who supports the comments of another prominent lawyer.
Delegat was sentenced to 300 hours community service and ordered to pay police constable Alana Kane $5000 in reparations after pleading guilty to assaulting her in a drunken incident in Dunedin last year.
The 19-year old appeared before Judge Kevin Phillips in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.
The incident involved an intoxicated Delegat becoming angry at a comment made about his girlfriend outside a student bar and subsequently punching a hole in a window.
When police officers intervened, the then Otago University student punched Ms Kane unconscious and hit her three times after that.
She was treated in hospital for 15 hours and off work for two months afterward, the court heard.
The court was also told Delegat had mental health problems, stopped taking anti-depressants and wasn’t meant to be drinking.
John Billington QC tells NBR he can understand the perception people have about the case but if it wasn't someone from a poorer background they wouldn’t be on the front page of a newspaper.
“What you are talking about here is somebody who has no previous record,” he says.
“It doesn’t matter what socio-economic group they come from. You get a first offender on that charge, with a clear record, then the outcome is going to be very similar.
“The court was bound to impose the least restrictive sentence and it’s certainly not going to send someone to prison in those circumstances on that charge.”
He says the $5000 reparation is quite modest in the circumstances, though. The best test will be if the police appeal, Mr Billington adds.
Delegat’s lawyer, Mark Ryan, says an appeal “cannot be discounted.”
Dunedin police angered — Police Association
Police Association president Greg O’Connor said Dunedin police were angered by the sentence and most people would have been sent to prison.
“This judge did convict him and he didn’t get name suppression. You can imagine how much pressure would have gone on to prevent those things occurring,” Mr O'Connor told RNZ.
“However, had that been someone unable to access resources of Delegat then it would have been highly unlikely they would have got the same result.”
Mr Billington says it was no surprise that Delegat tried to get name suppression and failed, which was fair.
“When you’re the son of a famous father you get that publicity. The natural instinct is to say ‘I’m being unfairly singled out because it’s not me, it’s my father who is the public figure,’” he says.
“But in the end the courts are pretty cynical about that and not interested. That is when there should be some other consequence and there is no other consequence to this person other than publicity.”
Mr Billington says the fallout is healthy public debate rather than trial by media.
He says he supports the comments of criminal lawyer Anne Stevens published by Stuff.co.nz. She said it was “outrageous” to suggest a lawyer could easily override a judge’s normal sentencing process.
“There are a dozen lawyers in Dunedin who could have got the same result. To read something else into it is completely unfair to Nikolas Delegat,” she told Stuff.
“He is just a young man who has made a terrible mistake, and he has a conviction against his name and a punishment that reflects his culpability. It is nothing to do with his parents' income.”
Nikolas is the son of wine magnate Jim Delegat, who with his sister Rosemari is valued at $450 million on the 2016 NBR Rich List.
Ms Kane is refusing to comment on the case, as are police, beyond a written statement from Otago Coastal acting area commander Kelvin Lloyd:
“Any assault on our staff is a concern and we continue to offer Constable Kane the necessary help and support she needs in her recovery.
“While operational policing always carries an element of risk, our staff do not go to work expecting to be assaulted.
“Constable Kane is very grateful for the support and concern that members of the public have expressed to her. Her focus now is on returning to work and she asks for privacy at this time.”
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