14 Sep 2016

Delegat's sentence about 'race and class'

8:49 am on 14 September 2016

Race and class played a role in the community service sentence given to a wine magnate's son for assault, says a Māori academic.

A composite image from file photos shows a police officer, left, and Otago University

Photo: RNZ / Wikicommons

Nikolas Delegat, the son of New Zealand wine magnate Jim Delegat, was on Monday sentenced to 300 hours of community work and a $5000 compensation payment for seriously assaulting a policewoman and assaulting an Otago University campus guard.

The officer was punched in the head four times and was off work for two months.

Leonie Pihama, director of Te Kotahi Research Institute at the University of Waikato, said the sentence given to the 19-year-old was reflective of what was wrong with the justice system.

 Dr Leonie Pihama, Director of Te Kotahi Research Institute at the University of Waikato.

Dr Leonie Pihama Photo: Te Kotahi Research Institute

A very wealthy pakeha man had received a community sentence for an offence that would have seen any other person, particularly a Māori or Pacific person, incarcerated.

"It's a reflection of a wider systemic issue," she said.

"You have a combination here of race and class. So you have a wealth privilege that enables an ability to have a particular kind of defence, enables an ability to advocate that this is a one-off and this is really a good person.

"It is about class but it is also about race, so it's about how these two combine within a particular situation to enable certain outcomes."

Police Association president Greg O'Connor has said Delegat, who was represented by a top Auckland lawyer, got better treatment than other offenders.

Mr O'Connor told Checkpoint that if the offence had been committed by a person who was poor or Polynesian the sentence would have been "unlikely to have got the same consideration."

An experienced defence lawyer, Grant Tyrrell, has questioned whether the sentence was a light one. The maximum for a first assault offence would have been 400 hours of community work, he said.

But Dr Pihama told Morning Report she believed others would be treated differently.

"In terms of an assault or a number of assaults within one evening and the impact on this particular officer I find it hard to believe that 400 community hours would be something that would be given to a Māori man even with a first offence or a Pacific man with a first offence.

"There is clearly a mismatch here that is related to both class and race privilege within the system."

Delegat had been drinking heavily in Dunedin when he got angry at comments made about his girlfriend, and lashed out, breaking a window, and punching those who tried to restrain him, the Dunedin District Court was told at sentencing on Monday.

Brendan Meech, who described himself as the Delegat family's friend and lawyer, yesterday released a statement saying the teenager took full responsibility for his actions.

He had attended a restorative justice conference, where he expressed his remorse, and again apologised to the officer and security guard whom he had assaulted and all others concerned, Mr Meech said.