Sport stars misled over letters for Veitch

By Jared Savage

Two of the letters written by high-profile New Zealanders to support Tony Veitch were changed before being used as character references in court.

Squash champion Dame Susan Devoy and Olympic chef de mission Dave Currie wrote glowing testimonials for Veitch - thinking their words would be used to help him get his passport returned by the court, not in sentencing submissions.

Neither knew Veitch was planning to plead guilty to injuring ex-partner Kristin Dunne-Powell, and both feel they have been misled.

The letters from Dame Susan and Mr Currie were changed before being handed to Judge Jan Doogue as part of the court file.

Both said sentences referring to the passport were deleted from their original letters.

The changes were discovered after the Weekend Herald searched the court file.

"Tony indicated he was looking to get his passport back and needed some support for that," Mr Currie said.

"My letter talked about that, it was in the last sentence. I can confirm that has been removed.

"There's nothing in the letter that I don't stand by. But it was a little surprising [to see the letter] was in a different context."

In her letter, Dame Susan said Veitch deserved a chance to get his life back and have the opportunity to work.

But when she wrote the letter on Monday she believed it would be used to support Veitch's application to have his passport returned.

"To take those letters of support and use them for a different purpose is, in my opinion, a disgrace," said Dame Susan.

"I was happy to write to get his passport back, I thought the trial would be in 2010 or later. It's totally totally different to writing a character reference for someone who's pleaded guilty to beating up their girlfriend. We've been used and manipulated.

"I'm just so disappointed and upset. Who could have taken out that sentence, which was the whole point of the letter?" she asked.

Former Olympic triathlon champion Hamish Carter told the Weekend Herald he had understood the reference he gave to Veitch was for a job interview and was connected to the broadcaster getting his passport released. He said Veitch asked him this week for a reference.

Veitch's lawyer, Stuart Grieve, QC, did not return phone calls. Veitch's spokeswoman, Glenda Hughes, yesterday telephoned all those who wrote support letters for Veitch.

None knew Veitch was going to plead guilty, but Ms Hughes said only Mr Currie and Dame Susan had raised concerns.

The true reason for the references being requested was kept secret because the sentencing indication the day before Veitch pleaded guilty was totally confidential.

"We couldn't tell anyone about this, only that the references would go before the court," Ms Hughes said.

She could not say who removed the paragraphs referring to the passport.

The letters from Dame Susan and Mr Currie were among nearly 20 handed in defence submissions to Judge Doogue in support of Veitch.

Others were written by All Black coach Graham Henry, Hamish Carter and Veitch's former TVNZ colleagues Jim Hickey, Susan Wood and Bernadine Oliver-Kerby.

Mr Grieve told the court he had never seen such a collection of "glowing" character references in his career.

In the Auckland District Court, Judge Doogue told Veitch: "Numerous references from prominent New Zealanders attesting to your good character is a testament to the fact that this single incident is very much out of character."

He was sentenced to 300 hours of community work and nine months' supervision, and fined $10,000.

Yesterday, Graham Henry issued a statement in response to domestic violence groups that had denounced his letter in support of Veitch.

"I don't condone what happened - it was a terrible act - and I would be concerned if any of my comments were misconstrued.

"I provided a character reference for him based on the relationship I had with him professionally and my knowledge of the work he had done with sporting clubs and charities."

Henry could not be contacted for comment on whether his letter was written for a passport application or sentencing.

Among other letter-writers, NZ Golf chief executive Bill McGowan said Veitch was clear that the letter was going to the judge, and "that was fine by me".

Former Australian netball captain Kathryn Harby-Williams, a radio colleague of Veitch, declined to comment, saying: 'It's over as far as I'm concerned."

- NZ Herald

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