I think the judge has made the right call in discharging without conviction the young man at the centre of the Labour summer sex allegations.
This decision today has upset one of the victims. He’s one of a group of young people who alleged that at a labour party summer camp, this now 21-year-old young man was drunk and assaulted them.
He was accused of kissing a young woman’s neck, grabbing another woman’s bottom and breast, and grabbing at the genitals of two young men.
This story has become a political storm. It’s dragged on for a year and a half, some charges have been dropped, all charges have been downgraded.
And in the end, the young man pleaded guilty to only two charges - the lesser charges of assault.
And today in the Auckland District Court, Judge Russell Collins discharged the man without conviction.
Now, I understand why this has upset one of the male victims. It’s dragged on so long, and when it finally got to this point, no punishment.
But what punishment would’ve been appropriate? An assault conviction would’ve sat on this young man’s record, which he would’ve had to declare, for example, for travel.
Now you may think ‘well fair enough’, but consider what the judge said. He believes the gravity of the offending is low, and he didn’t think the young man did it for sexual gratification or any perverted motive.
And this behaviour, the judge said, was "born out of drunken stupidity". That’s not an excuse, it’s just an explanation.
And this young man, the judge thinks everything other than his behaviour this night suggests he’s an impressive young man.
This boy didn’t do the right thing that night. No one should touch anyone else intimately without express permission, and the victims are absolutely right to object to it
But, is it right to punish this kid, a first time offender, who got drunk and did things the judge considers low gravity offending, with the black mark of a violence offence against his name?
The judge made the right call.