Ex-All Black convicted for wilful damage

Sione Lauaki
Sione Lauaki
Former All Black Sione Lauaki has been convicted for ripping a CCTV camera out of an Auckland taxi during a dispute with the driver over a fare.

Lauaki, 32, admitted a charge of wilful damage when he appeared in Auckland District Court yesterday over incident in December last year.

A police officer charged alongside Lauaki pleaded not guilty to the same charge earlier this week.

Lauaki had not been the main instigator of the row, and had pulled out the camera under a "misguided sense of loyalty to his friend", the court duty solicitor said today.

Lauaki and a group of three friends had been drinking in a nightclub, before getting into a taxi to Auckland city, on December 13.

On the way an argument kicked off between the driver and one of the group about the fare, the court prosecutor said. This continued for a short period, until the driver stopped the taxi at Greenwoods Corner, Epsom, at 3.30am and asked them to get out.

However, the passenger continued the argument, and when the driver refused to repay the fare, the man allegedly hit the passenger-side wing mirror of the taxi, causing it to break off.

It was then that Lauaki leant across the passenger seat and ripped the CCTV camera off the taxi and threw it across the road, the court was told.

The duty solicitor said Lauaki had initially tried to diffuse the situation between his friend and the taxi driver, but to no avail.

She said he did not condone his own behaviour, and admitted it had left an "unpleasant taste'' to both himself and all those involved.

Lauaki offered his apologies to the taxi driver, she said.

Convicting the former All Black, Judge David Wilson said he sensed it was a situation "that got out of hand", and accepted Lauaki was not the main instigator.

He ordered Lauaki to pay $700 to replace the broken CCTV camera, and $130 in court costs.

Outside court the sportsman said he was "happy it's all over''.

In future he would "sit on the side and not get involved", he said, but added he had believed he had been "trying to be loyal to my friend'' at the time.

"You've just got to learn from it,'' he said.

Lauaki was forced to quit rugby in 2012 after routine medical tests discovered problems with his heart and kidneys. The court was told he received a sickness benefit for heart problems.