Wellington - New Zealand Rugby (NZR) came under fire on
Tuesday for standing by a promising teenage star who viciously assaulted four
people, including two women, on a Wellington street.
In a case that sparked accusations the court system in
rugby-mad New Zealand gives sports stars special treatment, wing Losi Filipo
escaped conviction after a judge said he did not want to derail his career.
"If it was anyone else on the street, they wouldn't be
let off for any of this - for attacking four of us - punching two
females," Kelsey Odell, one of the 18-year-old's victims, told TV3.
NZR, which was criticised last month over its handling of
sexual assault allegations against Chiefs players, said it did not condone
behaviour that disrespected woman.
But it said Filipo had been dealt with by the court system
and it was not the organisation's place to comment further.
Amid calls for Filipo's contract with Wellington Rugby to be
torn up, NZR said it was standing him.
"We believe young men, like Losi, are better off with
rugby in their lives," NZR chief Steve Tew said in a statement.
"Rugby provides a positive environment that helps equip
players to manage the challenges they will face in life during and beyond their
Filipo's defence did not dispute the facts of the unprovoked
late-night attack in central Wellington last year involving the player and his
The teenager stomped on the head of one of the male victims
as he lay prone on the ground, leaving the man unable to work for eight months.
Odell, a model, said she will require plastic surgery to her
face after Filipo hit her. The other woman was punched in the throat.
In sentencing, judge Bruce Davidson said such a serious
attack would normally attract an 18-month jail term but a conviction would
hinder Filipo's chances of playing professionally.
"I have to ask myself, are the courts truly in the
business of destroying people's career prospects?" he asked.
Several All Blacks have also avoided convictions after
facing criminal charges, including Julian Savea (domestic violence) and George
Prime Minister John Key said while he could not comment on
Filipo's case specifically, the justice system should treat sports stars like
"Violence is unacceptable anywhere, it doesn't matter
what your profession is," he told reporters.
"If you undertake violence then you should be held to
the same set of rules as everybody else."