A prominent New Zealander was punched and left whimpering on the ground outside court during a dramatic melee in which his lawyer came to the rescue, pinning the attacker down on the banks of the River Avon.

The spectacle began inside the Christchurch District Court yesterday morning when the high-profile man appeared on a charge of indecently assaulting a girl aged under 12.

The charge relates to incidents alleged to have taken place between November 5, 2001, and November 4, 2002.

He was granted continued interim name suppression, but Judge Edward Ryan stressed this was to protect the other people involved in the case. The suppression covers the man's name, as well as his former and current occupations.

As the accused left the court with his lawyer Jonathan Eaton, another man appearing in court, Daniel McNally, punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground.

The accused lay on the ground sobbing and moaning, trying to protect himself.

Mr Eaton yelled for the police, then launched on to McNally, pushing him off the accused before tackling him and rolling him around the grass on the river bank. The accused then got up and ran off.

Police and security guards arrested ex-boxer McNally, who was charged with one count of assault.

He appeared back in court yesterday afternoon before Judge Ryan.

He was not impressed with the behaviour of McNally, who stood shaking in the dock, and his attempts to "take an interest in some business in the court before me and take exception to the way it's dealt with then mete out his own treatment". "There will be no question of bail for this man from me."

Mr Eaton, a Christchurch lawyer who is generally immaculately turned out in silk ties and pin-striped suits, was sheepish about his physical defence style yesterday afternoon.

Asked if he had recovered from his morning of drama he said he had, but pressed where he learned his roundhouse punching swing he just smiled and blushed before retreating to the lawyer's bench.