Rugby player assaulted two women

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INAPPROPRIATE behaviour at an Invercargill strip club led to a Fijian international and Southland Stag rugby player assaulting two women after he refused to leave.

In the Invercargill District Court last Thursday, Judge Russell Walker said Talemaitoga Tuapati arrived at Divaz Revue Bar in Invercargill about 12.30am on July 23.

The summary of facts says initially the 36-year-old was socialising and drinking with work colleagues, however, after about 40 minutes staff approached Tuapati saying his behaviour towards the dancers on stage had become inappropriate.

“The untoward behaviour continued, resulting in the defendant being asked to leave the premises.”

The female owner, who was not on the premises at the time, was called.

After she arrived, she advised Tuapati he had to leave and told him his behaviour was inappropriate.

“You responded – you had paid your money and you were not leaving,” Judge Walker said.

For about six minutes the owner tried to persuade Tuapati to leave but he refused. “She grabbed you by the left arm and started pushing you in the back.”

In response, Tuapati swung his left arm back with force hitting the owner in the face which he then followed up with punches to her face.

The second victim, a patron, became involved as she tried to help.

Tuapati lashed out, forcefully pushing the patron in the chest, then pinned her against a glass window by holding her top around her neck.

Police, who were across the road dealing with an unrelated matter ran over and arrested Tuapati.

The events were captured on the bar’s CCTV cameras.

As as result of the assault the owner had a sore face with marks to both her cheeks. The patron had pain to her neck and chest with a small cut to her cheek.

Defence counsel Sonia Vidal argued for Tuapati to be discharged without conviction, saying the conviction could have a detrimental effect on his ability to gain a rugby contract either in New Zealand or internationally.

The attitude of sporting bodies had changed significantly in the past few years with regards to player convictions, especially male assaults female, she said.

Tuapati’s shame was palpable and he just wanted to get the matter dealt with so his family could move on.

Crown prosecutor Mike Brownlie argued previous convictions, including male assaults female in 2008, had not prevented Tuapati from playing rugby in France and said no evidence was before the court from either a sports agent or club, to say the conviction would hinder him securing future rugby contracts.

Tuapati had played in France and had made only limited appearances for Southland in the past past couple of seasons.

Judge Walker said he was unable to discharge Tuapati without conviction and sentenced him to 75 hours’ community work, 12 months’ supervision and ordered him to pay $500 for emotional harm to each victim.

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