James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Nikau faces wait on appeal

Lawyer wants dismissal of league great's assault conviction over clash with daughter.

Barrister Gary Gotlieb (left) says Tawera Nikau was trying to hold off his estranged daughter.  Photo / Christine Cornege
Barrister Gary Gotlieb (left) says Tawera Nikau was trying to hold off his estranged daughter. Photo / Christine Cornege

Rugby league great Tawera Nikau will have to wait at least another week before finding out whether his appeal against an assault conviction is successful.

Nikau, 45, appeared in the High Court at Hamilton yesterday with his lawyer, Gary Gotlieb, to appeal against his male-assaults-female conviction

In July, Nikau was found guilty of grabbing his estranged daughter Heaven-Leigh by the throat outside the Huntly police station.

Justice Edwin Wylie listened to submissions from Crown prosecutor Rebecca Mann and Mr Gotlieb, who said there was no dispute that Nikau touched his daughter but he was only acting in self-defence because he suffered a large scratch to his arm.

Mr Gotlieb is seeking to have Nikau's conviction dismissed.

"What happened was a very strong man holding off someone," Mr Gotlieb said. The prosecution's evidence was reliant on the complainant who, he said, was "in an emotional state that day".

Justice Wylie reserved his decision pending his reviewing a police transcript of evidence. He said a decision would likely be made before Christmas.

At Nikau's earlier appearance, in the Huntly District Court, Mr Gotlieb asked for a discharge without conviction, saying the sportsman had done "volumes" for the Huntly community.

But the request was opposed by Nikau's daughter and the lower-court judge, who said there had to be consequences for the actions.

The judge ordered Nikau to pay $250 in reparation in the next 21 days, and $132.89 court costs.

Earlier this year, Nikau told media that he feared for the safety of his grandchildren, aged 6 and 4.

Both children, who are now living with their father in Melbourne, had been in the long-term care of grandparents and extended family until Heaven-Leigh picked them up the week before the incident and refused to hand them back.

- NZ Herald

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