Rugby star discharged without conviction

By Edward Gay

Francis Saili. Photo / Richard Robinson
Francis Saili. Photo / Richard Robinson

Blues mid-fielder Francis Saili has kept his criminal record clean after making an "unwise decision'' and driving while suspended.

In Manukau District Court today, Judge Jonathan Moses gave the young All Blacks squad member a discharge without conviction after reading an affidavit from his Blues coach Sir John Kirwan.

Kirwan said Saili was a respected member of the team. Another senior manager wrote about Saili's volunteer community work with schools and community groups, particularly in South Auckland.

Judge Moses said while he did not accept the charge would affect Saili's ability to travel and nothing had been put in front of him to prove that, he did take into account evidence from Kirwan who said criminal convictions were taken into account by teams.

In his affidavit, Kirwan said a conviction would affect Saili's ability to travel and his potential to play international rugby.

A judge can order a discharge without conviction if it is found the consequences of a conviction would outweigh the gravity of the offending.

Judge Moses said Saili's case passed the test but ordered him to pay $1000 to a driving road safety charity and disqualified his licence for six months.

"You have the capacity to make a positive contribution to New Zealand society in the future.''

Saili has also volunteered to undergo a defensive driving course.

He was pulled over on Auckland's southwest motorway in April, on his way to a Blues team appointment.

Saili had only just received a notice that he had been suspended from driving for 28 days after racking up too many demerit points.

"It appears you were unable to arrange anyone else to transport you to the appointment and you made an unwise decision,'' Judge Moses said.

He said he accepted Saili was sorry for what he had done and had pleaded guilty at an early opportunity.

Saili's application for a discharge was not opposed by police.

Senior prosecuting Sergeant Paul Watkins said the charge was serious but a discharge without conviction was an "even-handed'' application of the law.

Saili will now undergo an internal investigation by the New Zealand Rugby Union.

He declined to comment as he left court today.

- APNZ

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