News coverage given to a domestic violence case involving a Bay of Plenty police officer and his doctor wife has been "blown out of all proportion," a judge said today.
The case had attracted far more public attention than it warranted, according to Judge Robert Spear.
He was sentencing Adrian Hilterman, 50, in Tauranga District Court today.
A long-time police prosecutor in Whakatane, Hilterman has resigned from the force after about 25 years and is now unemployed.
Early last month a jury found him guilty of two assaults on Deborah Hilterman, 37, a general practitioner.
The accused had denied 13 charges of assaulting her between March 1998 and June last year.
One charge was withdrawn and the jury found Hilterman not guilty on 10 counts, dating back to a few weeks before the couple's wedding a decade ago.
At the end of the week-long trial in Tauranga, Hilterman pleaded guilty to three summary jurisdiction charges of assaulting the pair's children, then aged eight, seven and five.
He hit the two boys on the legs and the girl on the bottom with a wooden spoon on the evening he left the marriage in August last year.
Judge Spear today convicted and discharged Hilterman on those counts.
On the two male assaults female charges, he was sentenced to 150 hours' community work.
"He had been so provoked he was unable to cope any more and lashed out," counsel Paul Mabey QC told the judge.
The lawyer said his client denied the offending but accepted he must be sentenced on two of the jury's verdicts.
"And he will take that on the chin."
Mr Mabey was also critical of the "media circus" the case attracted.
If it had been an average couple in marital difficulties which involved the same extent of violence it would not have been newsworthy, he said.
Hilterman "married a lady he loved and that turned sour".
He also loved his children but had since lost any real prospect of maintaining a relationship with them.
Mr Mabey complained that Dr Hilterman's victim impact statement "went beyond what is permissible in law".
Crown prosecutor Chris Macklin agreed it was "very fulsome" and Judge Spear ruled that it not be read out in court.
The judge said the case was one of violence between a man and a woman in a married relationship.
"It is a case which is serious for that reason, and for that reason only."
He defended the continued suppression of Hilterman's occupation until after the trial, although the jury had been made aware from the outset that he was a serving police officer.
With past high profile trials of Bay of Plenty policemen accused of violence it was important there was no connection between those and Hilterman's case, Judge Spear said.
It was "an abundance of caution" to ensure Hilterman got a fair trial.
Both the accused and Dr Hilterman accepted that there was violence from both sides at "the pushing and shoving level" during their arguments.
The Hiltermans clearly had different expectations of the marriage.
The judge told Hilterman: "I think you found yourself out of your depth. You didn't know how to cope with the highly articulate and forceful person that Mrs Hilterman clearly is.
"This behaviour in the relationship can, to a degree, be (due to) the stress that built up."
The pre-sentence report showed that Hilterman regretted hitting his children and was remorseful, Judge Spear said.
As a prosecutor, he clearly knew the defence of parental discipline had been removed and it was now against the law.