Apology for bashing duty lawyer

Stephen Andrew Vincent has apologised for the drunken punch that felled a duty lawyer who was trying to help him at the Court House.

Vincent happened to meet the same lawyer today when he arrived at the new Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, and delivered the apology personally.

The lawyer had declined to meet the 48-year-old at an official restorative justice conference, after he admitted the assault charge.

But he received the apology as Vincent arrived to be sentenced by Christchurch District Court Judge Brian Callaghan for assault and for misusing a telephone.

The police said the victim was often at the Court House where he is available as a duty lawyer, providing legal advice to people attending court.

At 11.20am on September 11, Vincent was in an interview room with the lawyer who was giving him legal advice while they sat at a small table.

Vincent was drunk and smelt strongly of liquor. Because of his state, the lawyer told him that he did not think he was fit to appear in court.

Vincent stood up and punched the lawyer in the side of his head, knocking him off his chair and onto the floor. The lawyer feared a further assault and got up and left the room.

The lawyer received small cuts and bruising to his face, and his glasses were broken.

Defence counsel Ruth Harcourt urged the judge to impose supervision to allow Vincent to receive treatment for his alcohol abuse, which had been an issue for more than 20 years. He had begun drinking when he was 15.

She said the assault had not caused serious injury but she acknowledged it would have been upsetting for the lawyer. Vincent had not committed it out of malice, but had been drinking that day.

Judge Callaghan said Vincent had convictions for nuisance offending and he was very close to being jailed. It was concerning that he had assaulted a duty lawyer who was only doing his job and trying to help him. He had also made a nuisance of himself with an obnoxious telephone call to operators when he was not making any sense.

He decided that imposing home or community detention would only leave Vincent at home drinking with associates, so he imposed 18 months of intensive supervision during which he must undergo treatment or counselling for alcohol abuse, and 140 hours of community work.


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