Burnt football fan outraged by court sentence

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 "hardworking".

"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 pleaded guilty.

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 scot-free.

"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 Bharuchi said.

"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

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