Editorial: What cost a young man in trouble?

By Doug Laing

2 comments

Court cases for two younger males claiming sports potential as justification for leniency after serious offences against other people raise issues well beyond many of raised during this week.

Wellington rugby hopeful Losi Filipo, in court for a street attack on four people, and Flaxmere boxing-trainee Christopher Sio Talivaa, for an unlawful affair which had his girlfriend pregnant, aged 15.

Filipo, 18, in court for the first time and with established career potential, Talivaa seven years older, with established court history for violence and a sports career more a pugilistic dream than reality.

A similar outcome, neither going to jail. But Filipo does some voluntary service to the community, and escapes conviction, for now, while Talivaa is convicted, home detention and community work to follow.

Courtroom attempts to keep young people out of jail are common - 1925 people were discharged without conviction in the year to the end of June for acts intended to cause injury.

They are as common as the switches critics make from lynchman to protector once the accused is one of their own.

It's repeated daily, with lineups of people feeling compelled to help "not such a bad boy" - sports, yes, but also family, community leaders, churches, teachers, partners, legal defence.

Judicial imagination is required, to help offenders become contributing members of society: Filipo's prospects on the footy field on one hand, an infant's need for Talivaa as father on the other.

But as police talk "victimisations" rather than "offences," Filipo's victims seem to have been barely in the picture.

He did offer $1000, but an impost on the intended weekly match fee for quite some time to come would be more like it.

After all, thousands of young men battle crippling debt for such unholy teenage transgressions as unlicensed driving in unregistered cars, without hurting a soul.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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