Crown looks at possible appeal over judge's 'joke' sentence
In a rare legal move, the Solicitor-General is considering an appeal against the sentence imposed on investment banker Guy Hallwright who was found guilty of running down a man in a road rage incident.
A spokeswoman for the Solicitor-General said a "thorough review" of the case was being carried out to decide whether there were grounds for an appeal.
The appeal is backed by Auckland Council for Civil Liberties president Barry Wilson, who wrote a letter to Solicitor-General Michael Heron saying the court's handling of the matter "reinforces the public perception of a two-tier justice system".
In the Auckland District Court last month, Judge Raoul Neave sentenced Hallwright, a senior market analyst with Forsyth Barr, to 250 hours of community work, banned him from driving for 18 months and ordered him to pay $20,000 reparation to Sung Jin Kim.
Mr Kim suffered two broken legs when Hallwright hit him with his car after an argument on Mt Eden Rd in September 2010.
Hallwright drove off, but returned to the scene later.
While passing sentence, Judge Neave said Hallwright was a contributor to society with a "spotless reputation" and "impeccable character" and it was highly unlikely he would have driven at Mr Kim.
He said the reparation payment represented Hallwright's remorse, and was not a legal system loophole that allowed rich people to buy their way out of more serious sentences.
Mr Wilson said the comments were bizarre, and the public clearly regarded the sentence as inadequate.
"A major flaw in the judge's sentencing comments was that he appeared to deliver a glowing tribute to the defendant based on a limited knowledge of his background.
"To the extent that this contradicted the jury's verdict, it contributed to the public perception of an inadequate sentence."
Mr Wilson said the severity of Mr Kim's injuries should be considered by an appeal court.
"It is clear ... that he is seriously incapacitated," he said.
"Documentation is available to support the extent of his injuries and the disruption to his life.
"A statement prepared by his solicitor gives some indication of his losses. It indicates injury and financial loss on a substantial scale - something reparation of $20,000 goes nowhere near meeting."
Judge Neave also criticised the media for taking a perverse and "vulgar" glee in the charges against Hallwright and for referring to the offence as a hit-and-run. He said Hallwright was driving away from the situation, which had been escalated by Mr Kim banging on the bonnet of his car.
A witness who gave evidence at the trial, Giampiero De Falco, later told the Weekend Herald he was infuriated by the sentence and the judge's comments.
"He [Mr Kim] was screaming ... I was there from the beginning until the end," said Mr De Falco.
"It's inappropriate. And the sentencing is a joke. If it's not hit-and-run, what the hell is it?"
Mr Kim said yesterday he was to have another operation next week to remove a steel plate from his leg and would probably require six operations in total.
He was awaiting further instructions about an appeal from his lawyer, an Auckland barrister who had offered his services free of charge after reading about the sentence.
Any appeal needs to be filed by September 27.
Hallwright declined to comment yesterday, saying: "I have no faith in the media."