Former league star has assault conviction quashed

Former rugby league great Tawera Nikau has had his assault conviction quashed.

A just-released ruling from Justice Edwin Wylie, ruled there had been a mistake in the conduct of Nikau's trial held at the Huntly District Court earlier this year due to a misunderstanding between his lawyer, Gary Gotlieb and the judge.

Justice Wylie said the appeal should be allowed because there had been a miscarriage of justice "such that I cannot be confident the verdict is safe".

In his findings, Justice Wylie said Mr Gotlieb thought that during Nikau's trial the judge was indicating that he did not require to hear from him because the police had not made out its case beyond reasonable doubt.

"It is clear from the judge's subsequent decision finding the charge proved, that the judge did not mean that, and that he considered that it was for Mr Gotlieb and Mr Nikau to elect whether or not to call defence evidence."

"The judge's comment that he did not require to hear from Mr Nikau was, in the circumstances, unfortunate."

Nikau's conviction relates to an incident in February where he was found guilty of grabbing his estranged daughter Heaven-Leigh by the throat outside the Huntly police station.

Earlier this week, Justice Wylie listened to submissions from Crown prosecutor Rebecca Mann and Mr Gotlieb who still protests that Nikau acted only in self-defence and should have his conviction dismissed.

Heaven-Leigh said her dad was "angry and hyped" as he grabbed her tightly by the throat and dragged her on to the footpath.

The court earlier heard she tried to push him away and after several seconds he let her go.

Mr Gotlieb had asked for a discharge without conviction as Nikau had done "volumes" for the Huntly community.

But his request was opposed by his daughter and the judge, who said there had to be consequences for his actions. The judge ordered Nikau to pay $250 in reparation in the next 21 days, and $132.89 court costs.

Nikau told media earlier this year that he feared for the safety of his grandchildren aged 6 and 4.

Both children, who are now living with their father in Melbourne, had been in the long-term care of grandparents and extended family until Heaven-Leigh picked them up the week before the incident and refused to hand them back.

- By James Ihaka of the New Zealand Herald

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