Jaw broken after sexuality jibes in bar

A man who broke the jaw of an Australian ''homophobe'' in a Queenstown bar fight after being taunted was fined yesterday - but the charge was downgraded after the judge said the victim played a major part in the incident.

Ricardo Clifford Tangateke Edwards (35), housekeeper, of Queenstown, was initially charged with assaulting Michael Owen last November 28.

Police later upgraded the charge to injuring Mr Owen with reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Edwards denied the charge and faced a judge-only trial in the Queenstown District Court yesterday.

Judge Tom Broadmore said he could not dismiss the charge, but downgraded it to one of injuring by an unlawful act.

''I think that the outcome is one that both recognises your own part in the [incident] and [Mr Owen's] ... very major contribution to what took place.''

Camp St Brewery barmaid Madeline Pearce said Edwards and an associate were drinking at the bar on November 28 and while Edwards was ''a bit tipsy'', he was in control.

Mr Owen, who was not present in court yesterday, arrived at the bar with associates and ended up there by himself. He was intoxicated and ''lingering around''.

Ms Pearce said Edwards and his associate started dancing and she noticed Mr Owen ''behind them, almost copying them''.

On several occasions, she witnessed Mr Owen lean in and ''whisper something'' to the men, being told at least once by Edwards to stop, before the defendant eventually ''snapped''.

''Ricardo just ... turned around and hit him.''

Mr Owen was knocked backwards, but retaliated almost immediately and the pair started fighting.

''They were rolling around on the floor - they were under the table at one point.''

The two men were eventually pulled apart, but Mr Owen refused to leave and struggled with staff trying to eject him from the premises.

''He was just yelling at Ricardo, just being a homophobe really ... it was horrible.''

Police were called to the bar at 10.30pm.

Constable Shona Campbell said Edwards told her Mr Owen had been hassling him and his friend, making remarks about their sexuality.

Edwards told Mr Owen several times to leave them alone, before he had ''had enough'' and punched him to ''get rid of him''.

Constable Emily Olsen said Mr Owen was so intoxicated he either ''could not or would not make any sense''.

Mr Owen was arrested for disorderly behaviour and at the Queenstown police station began complaining of a sore jaw, which was later found to be broken.

The following day, Edwards told Const Olsen the victim had been ''mocking'' him and his friend while they danced and would not leave them alone.

Mr Owen began ''taunting'' Edwards and then said, ''Oh, you're just a faggot''.

It was then Edwards threw the punch.

Defence counsel Rachel Napier submitted police had failed to prove the necessary mens rea (a criminal intention or knowledge an act is wrong).

''It's my submission that there is simply no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Edwards did turn his mind to the risk that the victim would suffer a broken jaw if he hit him and that he deliberately continued to hit him regardless of that risk.''

She said Edwards had shown a ''temporary loss of control'' and submitted the charge be lowered to one of a Crimes Act assault.

Prosecuting Sergeant Ian Collin said despite the ''considerable amount'' of provocation, Edwards' actions were not of somebody who pushed another person.

''He deliberately chose to clench his fist ... '' and punched Mr Owen in the face.

Edwards admitted the charge of injuring by an unlawful act and was convicted and fined $500, with court costs $130.