A man who suffered third degree burns after a firecracker was
tossed into the crowd at an All Whites' football match is
outraged the culprit has got off "scot-free".
Ilyas Bharuchi was at the team's World Cup playoff against
Mexico in Wellington last year when a firework exploded close
to where he was sitting.
The 40-year-old child psychiatrist suffered third-degree
burns on his left leg and buttock, and will undergo at least
another year of treatment for the injuries.
Sytse Tacoma, 23, appeared in the Wellington District Court
yesterday in relation to the incident, and was discharged
without conviction after pleading guilty to a charge of
reckless disregard for the safety of others.
His lawyer, Noel Sainsbury, told Judge Tom Broadmore that
Tacoma - an engineer - deeply regretted the incident.
"It's a case where there's been an act of incredible
stupidity, there's no getting round that [and] that's had
terrible consequences to the victim, and that's accepted."
As soon as his client was aware somebody had been hurt in the
incident, he presented himself to police, Mr Sainsbury said.
He was aware Dr Bharuchi had to take time off work because of
his injuries, with information from him showing he had
suffered financial losses of at least $7000.
Mr Sainsbury said Tacoma wanted to "make that good" and meet
with Dr Bharuchi to apologise for his actions in person.
During his sentencing indication, Judge Broadmore referred to
evidence showing Tacoma was "of good character" and
"It did seem to me that this is the classic case of a young
person on the threshold, of what has every chance of being if
not a glittering at least a very successful career ... who in
a moment of madness did this terrible thing," he said.
When Judge Broadmore indicated Tacoma would receive a
discharge without conviction - with a requirement to
undertake restorative justice and pay reparations - he
Dr Bharuchi, who is based in Melbourne, told APNZ last night
the outcome of the case was "ridiculous".
"I don't understand how he can be guilty and get off
"Someone could have been killed, there's no doubt about it
... but we're protecting the person that commits the crime so
this won't impede on his life."
At the very least, Tacoma should have received a conviction,
with a sentence of community work and a requirement to
undertake a course about the dangers of fireworks, Dr
"I'm going to have to live with this for the rest of my life.
I can't even go into a stadium anywhere without thinking
what's going on behind me. I have no desire to go to another
football match, and I love football.
"It sends a message that anyone can do anything they want."
Police prosecutor Alice Handcock opposed an application for
discharge without conviction at yesterday's court appearance,
highlighting the danger of Tacoma's actions.
"By throwing the firecracker into a crowded stadium - it was
inevitable it would hurt somebody," she said.
Tacoma has been remanded to reappear at the end of July,
where progress on his reparation payments and restorative
justice action would be assessed.
Dr Bharuchi said he had no interest in meeting with Tacoma.
A spokesman for New Zealand Football said the organisation
was very disappointed to learn one of its supporters had been
injured at a match.
"New Zealand Football, working with our stadium partners,
remain committed to providing a safe and secure environment
for all fans to ensure such an event is not repeated."
- By Teuila Fuatai of APNZ