Health Worker Beats Wife, Avoids Jail

Publish Date
Thursday, 7 April 2016, 7:29AM
Image: Getty Images

Image: Getty Images

New details have emerged of how a top Wellington health professional beat his partner and then escaped conviction, a decision the Women's Refuge says "sends a dreadful message to victims and perpetrators".

The man, whose name and occupation are suppressed, is one of thousands of Kiwis who avoid a blot on their record every year.

He had pleaded guilty to a charge of assaulting his partner with intent to injure her, a crime that can attract a three-year jail term.

Women's Refuge chief Ang Jury wasn't impressed with the discharge.

"The decision is really problematic and sends a dreadful message to victims and perpetrators," Dr Jury said.

"The Family Violence Death Review Committee report recently said - strongly - that all agencies needed to stop making victims responsible for their safety.

This result simply reinforces that they remain so. The courts must start imposing meaningful sanctions."

Dr Jury said a person's position in the community shouldn't affect a discharge decision.

The industry body governing the man's profession won't be notified of the court case because it is told only if someone is convicted of an offence where the maximum penalty is three months or more behind bars.

The man's lawyer opposed the Herald's application to view the police summary of the offending provided to the court, citing concerns that his client might be identified.

But Judge Ian Mill granted access, meaning the assault the man tried to keep secret can be revealed.

One evening last June, he was arguing with his partner and told her to leave their house. When she refused, he threw a metal bar stool at her. It missed. He then grabbed a wooden children's chair and hit her around her upper body, breaking the chair.

She entered a bedroom, where one of their children was present. The man walked in and twice slapped his partner's face. He grabbed her hair, pulled her to the floor and kicked her legs.

She was left with pain and bruises but she supported the man's applications for name suppression and a discharge, saying he was an "awesome father".

"She describes the consequences to you, her and the children as outweighing the significance of what she describes as an isolated incident during a temporary crisis in your relationship," Judge Peter Hobbs told the man at his sentencing in the Wellington District Court last year.

"She remains devastated that you have been charged and begs me, in her words ... not to convict you."

Police didn't oppose the discharge or suppression applications.

When making his decision, the judge noted the behaviour was out of character. He also referenced a positive report from a domestic violence counsellor.

"You have also expressed shame and remorse for your behaviour," Judge Hobbs told the accused.

The man did not argue his job was at risk, but said a conviction would compromise employment prospects and travel required for work.

Judge Hobbs accepted there was a "risk of future consequences" and that those were out of proportion to the seriousness of the offending.

The judge also ruled the man's name should stay secret because of hardship his partner and their children might suffer due to publicity.

University of Auckland associate law professor Bill Hodge, who has expressed concerns about prominent people getting discharged, said reasons of work and travel shouldn't wash. But, he said, the partner's view was important.

"This one doesn't feel good, except that the victim has contributed her view and if I were the judge I would have taken these into account and given them very heavy weight."

The man could not be contacted and the woman hung up her telephone when called by the Herald.

Escaping conviction

• In 2014-15, 2136 people were discharged; 66,002 were convicted

• During the past decade, 36,474 people were discharged and 841,147 convicted

• In 2014-15, 628 discharges were granted for "acts intended to cause injury"

NZ Herald