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Justice Finally Served In Losi Filipo Assault Situation; Kiwi Rugby Reputation Still Pretty Damaged

Justice is finally served to teenage rugby player Losi Filipo, who was part of a group attack last year.

Ben Stanley

Youtube

Just over a month after Losi Filipo escaped punishment for a brutal late night assault that drew more attention on an entitled Kiwi rugby culture, the Wellington teenager has received new sentence.

Filipo, a winger for the Wellington provincial rugby team, was discharged without conviction earlier this year after a group attack on four people, including two women, in the Wellington CBD last October. It is understood Filipo stomped on the head of one victim.

The 19-year-old was initially dismissed from court, with the judge calling a conviction a "significant barrier to a professional sporting career."

News of Filipo's escape from charges broke in late September, prompting many to say that rugby players live a charmed life in New Zealand. At the time, Wellington Rugby cut Filipo's playing contract.

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Yesterday, the initial decision was changed in Wellington - with Filipo receiving a new sentence of nine months of supervision. Justice David Collins also included conditions for Filipo, who kept his earlier guilty plea, to attend a drug and alcohol assessment program.

Collins described the group attack as a "chilling act of violence" - but said the new sentence was fair given Filipo's age, lack of criminal history and initial steps taken to change his behaviour.

Since his first appearance in court, Filipo has been volunteering as a teacher's aid and doing community work; even raising $1000 for charity by cleaning cars.

"You have the opportunity to demonstrate that you are worthy of being a professional rugby player," Collins said, according to a New Zealand Herald report.

A TVNZ report on Filipo, before his new sentencing yesterday. Source: Youtube.

Media gathered outside the court in Wellington to speak to Filipo, but it was understood the rugby player's brother wore his shirt and acted as a decoy as he left.

The new sentence seems to show that, after a lot of unsurprising hyperbole in the press and social media, justice has finally been served.

Given New Zealand rugby's terrible PR year - that has featured the infamous Chiefs stripper scandal and All Black Aaron Smith being found having sex in an airport toilet - an out-sized reaction to Filipo's situation was always likely.

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Some, however, are still not happy with how it has unfolded. Madeline Chapman, from popular New Zealand culture website The Spinoff, said that Filipo's conviction was nothing to celebrate.

"The Losi Filipo case has proven that more often than not, outrageous moral high ground comes before reason and way before compassion," she wrote.

"A young man committed an offence, expressed remorse, attempted restorative justice, and was given a chance to be a positive influence in society. That same young man is now a convicted criminal, a known hated face and name without any apparent clear purpose in life, for the near future at least."

New Zealand Rugby, meanwhile, still has plenty of work to do to mend its image - but is attempting to move in the right direction.

NZR confirmed to Stuff last month they were setting up an independent review of their culture, in wake of the Chiefs, Smith and Filipo affairs. Stuff said the review will look at cultural issues in rugby, particularly around "its attitude to women."