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Filipo discharge set aside by High Court

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 27/10/2016 Sean Martin

A district court judge was wrong to have discharged without conviction Wellington rugby player Losi Filipo for an assault on four people, the High Court has deemed.

Justice David Collins said the judge erred by not taking into account relevant matters which led him to under-assess Filipo's offending.

"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,' Justice Collins said in ruling that the decision to discharge him be set aside.

The 18-year-old was discharged without conviction by Judge Bruce Davidson after pleading guilty to assaulting four people last October.

But the solicitor-general appealed that decision with Justice Collins agreeing that Judge Davidson had failed to take in aggravating factors, including the fact Filipo stomped on one of the victim's heads four times after he had already been knocked unconscious.

He agreed with police arguments that the judge did not give enough consideration to the seriousness of the offending against the victims, which included two men and two women.

One of the men suffered a concussion so serious he was unable to work for six months or play rugby again.

Justice Collins said the starting point for sentencing should have been a prison term of at least two years.

The original sentence, handed down in August, caused a public outcry when it became public last month and the media attention prompted an investigation by the solicitor-general.

The case led to Filipo being withdrawn from the Wellington squad and the mutually agreed termination of his contract.

Justice Collins said he would normally substitute the lower court's decision with a conviction but Filipo had entered a guilty plea after a sentence indication hearing. Filipo is now able to vacate his guilty plea.

The appeal hearing will resume on November 2 to decide whether the case goes back to the district court for trial or sentencing takes place in the higher court.

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