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A women's group last night applauded a judge's decision to lift name suppression on All Black Sitiveni Sivivatu after he admitted assaulting his wife.

But Women's Refuge national manager Heather Henare expressed disappointment that Judge Phillip Connell, by discharging Sivivatu without conviction, indicated the assault was relatively minor.

"Any violence of any form is not okay," Ms Henare said. "I don't think any assault is okay and referring to it as a minor incident is minimising it."

But she was pleased the All Black had taken responsibility for his actions by admitting the assault.

And she said the judge had redeemed himself by refusing to follow unhealthy precedents of other family violence cases involving leading sportsmen whose names were suppressed.

An example was that of an All Black who admitted assaulting and trying to drag his pregnant wife along the ground and was discharged without conviction two years ago and granted permanent name suppression.

Sivivatu's discharge was against the arguments of a police prosecutor during a hearing that lasted more than two hours yesterday in the Hamilton District Court.

Outside the court Sivivatu said he regretted his actions and was sorry for the hurt caused. He asked that his privacy and his wife's be respected.

"I'm clearly sorry about what I did - I totally regret it and I just want to move on."

Sources told the Herald that Sivivatu's wife, Suliana, phoned police several days after the attack and pleaded with them to drop the charges but they refused.

Yesterday, Judge Connell ruled that a criminal conviction would far outweigh the crime and said the unveiling of Sivivatu's identity was "punishment enough".

The judge advised Sivivatu's lawyer not to go into what led to the assault, as it was irrelevant.

Police were called to Sivivatu's Hamilton home about 2am on March 19, after a domestic dispute got out of hand.

Sivivatu slapped Suliana twice during a heated argument, once against the side of her face and once on her upper right arm.

She retreated, but Sivivatu followed her because, he said, he wanted to apologise. His wife blocked his path by throwing two chairs at him, then called the police.

Judge Connell said it was telling that she felt fearful enough to make the call, and he later referred to Sivivatu's size - he is 97kg - compared to that of his wife.

Sivivatu then left the house but returned later to admit the events to the officers who had arrived at the couple's home.

They took him to the police cells, where he remained locked up until he appeared in court later that morning.

The Herald spoke to a cellmate of Sivivatu's days after the incident.

The source said Sivivatu told him he was in the cells because he had beaten up two men he caught breaking into a classic car he owned.

Yesterday, Sivivatu's lawyer, Philip Morgan, QC, said Sivivatu's wife was sore for hours but did not require medical treatment following the incident.

His client had never offended before, was a non-drinker and regularly attended his local Methodist church.

Judge Connell later agreed that the offending was at the lower end of the domestic violence scale.

But he rejected the notion put forward by Mr Morgan and the lawyer acting for Sivivatu's wife, Warren Scotter, that the publicity over the case would lead to feelings of shame or embarrassment and guilt on the part of Sivivatu's wife.

The judge said there would be "nothing but support and sympathy for her".

And he did not accept an argument that her future career in law, for which she was studying, would in some way be affected by the "glare of publicity".

Judge Connell said he had to consider the weight of public interest for open justice against the weight of private interests.

The gravity of the offence had also to be balanced against the consequences of Sivivatu's actions.

Sivivatu, a 12-test All Black, was a hero and role model with a high public profile, and a discharge without conviction was appropriate as "this publication of name is going to blacken that picture".

Sivivatu also travelled on a Fijian passport, and a conviction would give border authorities a right to refuse him entry to many countries.

This could jeopardise his career and his family's financial future.

The lifting of name suppression was punishment enough, compared to that of ordinary offenders whose names and profiles never attracted such public attention and whose lives continued largely intact.

"I accept that having denied suppression, there is of course a penalty in itself ... I accept it is punishment enough," the judge said.

He ordered the All Black to make a donation of $1000 to charity.

Wellington human rights lawyer Joy Liddicoat welcomed the judge's refusal to grant name suppression, saying last night: "What we can't talk about, we can't deal with."

She believed making Sivivatu's identity public would help him stay contrite and support an improvement in his behaviour to meet an expectation that sports stars, like police officers, should be role models in their private as well as professional lives.

But Ms Liddicoat said the issue of whether the judge should have discharged him without conviction was more problematic, because of the need to make the punishment fit the crime.

New Zealand Rugby Union deputy chief executive Steve Tew said an internal inquiry had begun.

"Any player misconduct is a serious concern and now the legal process is complete for Sitiveni, we as the NZRU - in conjunction with the Chiefs [the player's Super-14 franchise] - have started our own misconduct process."

The collective agreement between the NZRU and players included a formal process for investigating incidents of misconduct, Mr Tew said.

Penalties could include a warning, suspension from playing rugby, a fine (of up to $4000) or termination of employment.

"The collective agreement requires that the details of individual cases are confidential, but I can say that the union has, where appropriate, handed down fines and suspensions."

In February last year, Sivivatu's Chiefs and All Blacks teammate Sione Lauaki admitted assaulting a security officer in Hamilton.

He was later offered diversion.

Sivivatu was born in Suva in 1982 and moved to New Zealand as a teenager. He attended Wesley College near Pukekohe, which has produced four other All Blacks, including the legendary wing Jonah Lomu.

Sivivatu made his NPC debut with Counties Manukau when they were in the second division, before switching to first-division Waikato and the Chiefs.

After qualifying through a three-year residency period, he was selected for the All Blacks in 2005 and scored a record four tries in his first test, against his native Fiji.

That year he started all three tests against the British and Irish Lions, scoring tries in the first two tests.

A World Cup squad certainty, Sivivatu will compete for a starting wing spot with his cousin Joe Rokocoko, Doug Howlett and Rico Gear.

- additional reporting: Mathew Dearnaley, Steve Deane