I think we have a winner for Lawyer of the Year.

In the category of Best Sentence for an Outrageous Crime, the award goes to the wizard who side-stepped jail time for Nikolas Delegat, multi-million dollar wine heir, and policewoman puncher.

Delegat pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer with intent to obstruct her in the execution of her duty - a charge which involved him punching a policewoman unconscious, then continuing to punch her three more times while she was out.

She was hospitalised for 15 days, and 18 months later, suffers on-going headaches. She has yet to fully return to work.


In the same incident, Delegat also punched another person, a Campus Watch officer, who was intervening to quell an argument between Delegat and his girlfriend.

Delegat's total sentence for all of the above: 300 hours community service, and a $5000 emotional harm reparation payment to the policewoman.

(It seems there's no emotional reparation to the Campus Watch officer, not even a dinner voucher, or a few bottles of Delegat's.)

But $5000 for emotional harm, oddly, seems perfectly calculated to inflict further emotional harm. Does the money get delivered to the victim in a greeting card? Is the greeting card signed by the defence lawyer or the judge?

At $5000, emotional harm reparations don't seem to be keeping pace with inflation, or Auckland house deposits, but then again, the assault happened in Dunedin, where the average house price is lower.

I suppose to a front-line police officer, $5K is - significant. Obviously, you wouldn't expect to punch a barrister or a judge for that kind of money, but a police constable is on a lower hourly rate.

(Sidebar: could you punch a male police officer for $5K? Or is this another example of women being paid less than men?)

Discussing emotional harm with Delegat's lawyer, District Court judge Kevin Phillips said: "This almost destroyed her life." Well that explains the severe sentence then.


"Almost" is the key word. If her life had been actually destroyed, the emotional harm payment would have been at least $6K, if not more.

The police officers' union, the Police Association, went all sociological on the sentence: "Had we been talking about a young Polynesian man from south Dunedin, then I'm sure we would have been talking whether it was 12 months or six months, or maybe even longer."

Maybe police-face-punching in Dunedin is just the new couch-burning, or undie-running. Those scarfie pranksters!

It seems stunning to suggest that Delegat's non-jail sentence had anything to do with him being white, and global 1 per cent wealthy.

Surely if this had been the case, the judge would have said so.

After the sentence was handed down, on a velvet cushion, with a chocolate mint, the Delegat family issued a statement.

"Nikolas takes full responsibility for his actions that night," said the statement, because there's nothing as sincere as an apology written in the third person.

Their statement captures the vibe of embarrassed parents whose primary school child just ruined someone else's birthday party.

"He also apologises to his family," continues the statement, "and those around him for the trouble he has caused them."

You get the feeling this is the kind of heartfelt apology that Nikolas is having read out to him, by whoever wrote it, and clause by clause, he has to sign off, by pouting: "Oh, alright then. Can't we hurry up? I want to go yachting!"

(Inconvenience to his overseas yachting, is one reason he sought discharge without conviction. I suppose inconvenience to overseas shopping wouldn't have sounded as sympathetic.)

In Dunedin, because you can never predict what people will fixate on, it seems the local law community took umbrage at the fact an Auckland lawyer was brought in.

Dunedin barrister Anne Stevens said: "Any number of lawyers in Dunedin would have achieved the same result ... some of them, I dare say, would have got a discharge."

Dunedin represent! Go the Highlanders! Take that, fancy Auckland lawyer! (Maybe David Bain could recommend someone.)

It's possible I'm behind the times.

Maybe I'm overreacting to the fact that someone can punch police in the face and avoid jail.

Maybe police-face-punching in Dunedin is just the new couch-burning, or undie-running. Those scarfie pranksters!

When I picture Delegat punching this woman, I confess to a vengeful impulse for him to be punished, and jail seems to be, well, what we have jail for.

Couldn't he at least have been sentenced to some cushy prison for the 1 per cent?

Doesn't Serco have some six-star suites in a Business Class jail?

Delegat's guilty plea came after the initial charge of aggravated assault, was replaced with a lighter charge: assaulting a police officer (with intent to obstruct her in the execution of duty.)

Obviously the judge can only work with - and sentence - based on the charges that are brought. Shrug emoji.