A top Auckland doctor charged over a serious boating incident in which a man was left bleeding in the water may escape without a black mark against his name.
Dr Anthony Ronald Bierre, 61, appeared in Auckland District Court yesterday after being charged with operating his 17m yacht, O'Sinnerman, in a dangerous manner last month.
Police indicated the defendant was eligible for diversion, which means they will withdraw the charge if he completes tasks designed to address the offending.
Bierre was elected to the Auckland District Health Board before taking on his role at Biopsy Solutions in Remuera, and his reputation saw him awarded the New Zealand Special Service Medal in 2007.
On February 8 the Mimilo family were on a fishing trip on their 6m runabout in Sergeant Channel between Motuihe and Waiheke Islands. Seconds later, 51-year-old bank manager Talauta Mimilo was jumping overboard as Bierre's racing yacht approached. He said he first saw the vessel about 150m away and was screaming at it to change course as he believed a collision looked likely.
Mr Mimilo yelled at his four relatives to jump overboard but he was the only one who did not "freeze".
As he leaped, he said the yacht swerved at the last minute, narrowly missing the boat but cracking him on the head. The father of four put his survival in the ensuing moments down to his experience as a boatie.
He took another blow to the shoulder but kicked hard to force himself beneath the surface, realising the real damage would be from the propeller.
It sliced his leg and, had he not removed his life jacket minutes earlier, he believed he would be dead.
"That's what I wake up every night thinking," Mr Mimilo said.
"While we've still got our lives, it's been traumatic for the family and I'm still annoyed no one seems to appreciate the injuries I've carried from that."
Mr Mimilo had been through three courses of antibiotics and may face surgery for his leg wound, which he said was down to the bone.
He said he been frustrated by the police's original investigation which appeared to "water the whole thing down" as well as a meeting with Bierre to clear the air. But he did not doubt the doctor's remorse.
Mr Mimilo was still dumbfounded by Bierre's explanation for leaving the wheel though.
"He said he heard some noise down below, but why would you leave it on auto-pilot on a busy Waitangi weekend?"
Bierre did not respond to several requests for comment.
The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's website shows he was back aboard his vessel less than two weeks later to compete in the Havana Club Rum Race Summer Series, in which he came fourth.
The doctor was cleared of any wrongdoing after he was accused in 2006 of abusing his health board position to secure a $560 million laboratory contract for his company Labtests. Diagnostic Medlabs challenged the contract decision, which saw a three-year court battle finally fall in favour of Labtests. Bierre had left the company by that time.
If he completes the tasks set by the police, which often involve restorative justice, an apology letter, reparation to the victims and/or counselling, he will be granted diversion at his next appearance in June.
What is diversion?
Diversion is a scheme that provides predominantly first offenders with the chance to avoid conviction for what the police deem low-level offending.
It involves a defendant accepting full responsibility for their crime and agreeing to fulfil certain conditions in exchange for the charges being withdrawn.
Sex offences, serious drug crimes, family violence and driving convictions that carry with them a mandatory disqualification are usually not seen as appropriate for the scheme.