An off-duty police officer who abused a football referee officiating his son's match before grabbing the ref's throat pleaded guilty to assault today.
Senior constable Keith Rose, 59, acted like a "spectator from hell'', according to a judge who sentenced him to a discharge without conviction today at Christchurch District Court.
He also ordered Rose to pay $1500 in emotional harm compensation to the assistant football referee, who was traumatised by the June 29 incident and has not refereed a game since.
Rose, a police officer for 42 years, now faces an internal police enquiry and a code of conduct meeting.
He refused to comment as he left court today.
The court heard Rose had been sitting in the main grandstand at ASB Park in Christchurch to watch his son play for Western against Cashmere Technical in a premier league match.
Rose was seen and heard to make "a number of adverse comments regarding the performance of the referees during the game'', the police summary of facts stated.
After the match, in which his son's team lost 4-1, Rose turned to other spectators in the grandstand and said, "That ref was s***''.
He moved down to an area in front of the players' tunnel as the four match officials were walking off.
A group of supporters abused the officials while Rose told the referee: "You are a f****** disgrace''.
As the officials made for their changing facilities, an assistant referee "collided'' with Rose, in what was unlikely to have been deliberate according to Judge Robert Murfitt.
Nonetheless, Rose grabbed the victim around the front of his throat, and "held him for several seconds''.
"The action was observed by a number of people present in the area,'' the summary of facts showed.
"As a result, several persons came to the assistance of the victim and pulled Rose away, allowing the victim to gain access to the players' tunnel.''
Rose pleaded guilty to an amended assault charge today.
Defence counsel Pip Hall QC said Rose reacted after being "bumped in to'', and reacted, as per his police training to diffuse a potentially violent situation.
The experienced police officer, with an unblemished record and no prior convictions, was remorseful and had written a letter of apology to the victim, Mr Hall said.
His job had been compromised, having been stood down from normal duties, and he now faced a code of conduct hearing and full police inquiry.
Police prosecutor Stephen Burdes refuted claims that Rose's actions were as a result of his police training, saying, "It's not the way to react''.
The victim had suffered greatly since the assault, and when he had gone to watch football matches, both he and his wife had been the subject of ridicule from supporters.
In sentencing Rose, Judge Murfitt told him he had "behaved like the spectator from hell''.
He was left in no doubt that the match officials would have felt "quite intimidated'' with the situation.
When Rose grabbed the assistant referee by the throat, the judge was sure he had been "motivated by anger and outrage'' rather than self defence, as claimed by his defence counsel.
The victim did not suffer any physical injuries but did suffer significant psychological and social harm, having given up refereeing because of the social anxiety, the judge said.
While police officers who offend should not be treated any harsher because of their profession, Judge Murfitt said it was important that Rose be held accountable for his conduct and that volunteers giving up their time for amateur sport should be protected.
Rose was granted a discharge without conviction and ordered to pay $1500 in emotional harm compensation.