Guilty Faiumu avoids jail time
FORMER New Zealand rugby league international David Faiumu has until noon today to avoid going to jail.
If he pays $8000 compensation to bashing victim Ashley Anderson, Faiumu will get his passport back and be free to return to his English Super League club.
Faiumu was yesterday ordered to pay the compensation after he pleaded guilty in Rockhampton District Court to causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Anderson.
After being attacked in the Rockhampton CBD on November 24, 2007, Mr Anderson needed surgery to avoid permanent nerve damage in his face.
Faiumu’s defence barrister Steve Kissick told the court the footballer’s “whole career” had been put on a knife’s edge.
He said a criminal conviction would make it hard for Faiumu to renew his visa, which he needs to continue playing professional rugby league in the UK.
A jail term would have seen Faiumu, 26, lose his lucrative Super League contract.
Before he arrived at court yesterday, Faiumu had booked a flight home to England.
Mr Kissick submitted that instead of a jail sentence, Faiumu could pay compensation to Anderson, which would highlight his remorse.
Crown prosecutor Isaac Munsie asked the judge for a two-year jail term and for Faiumu to serve prison time.
Judge Britton sentenced Faiumu to 18 months imprisonment, wholly suspended, and ordered he pay $8000 compensation to Mr Anderson before midday today, in default of which he will spend six months in jail.
Grievous bodily harm carries a maximum penalty of 14 years.
Judge Britton said he didn’t want the sentence to be perceived as Faiumu “simply buying your way out of jail”.
He said “it is the case that your personal circumstances and all of the other relevant factors” justified a suspended jail sentence.
“It seems to me that it is not likely that you will re-offend,” Judge Britton said.
Outside Rockhampton Courthouse yesterday afternoon, Faiumu told The Morning Bulletin he regretted the attack on Mr Anderson.
When asked if he would like an opportunity to apologise to Mr Anderson, Faiumu replied: “Yeah, I’d love to mate.”
His barrister described the attack as completely out of character for Faiumu.
“He simply lost his cool, momentarily, briefly, and punched him (Mr Anderson) once.”
As a result of almost permanently losing some feeling in his face from the attack, Mr Anderson developed an addiction to marijuana to relieve the pain.
He now lives in Brisbane with his wife and two children and is no longer addicted to the drug.
Faiumu, who was playing for the North Queensland Cowboys in 2007, was dating Mr Anderson’s ex-girlfriend when he assaulted the Rockhampton swimmer.
The night of the attack the pair had an altercation outside a nightclub, separated and then ran into each other again hours later.
Mr Anderson and his friends were confronted by Faiumu and a mate on the corner of William and East streets.
Mr Anderson allegedly told Faiumu: “Why don’t you go back to your own country?”
Mr Anderson was standing with his hands by his side, about one metre from Faiumu when he was punched to the face.
He fell back and was knocked unconscious when his head hit a light post.
Faiumu and his mate left in a taxi.
Mr Anderson needed surgery on his face and had a 9mm titanium plate inserted in his eye socket.
He had cuts and abrasions near his eyes and a doctor said that if his injuries went untreated he would have had permanent nerve damage.
In a victim impact statement, Mr Anderson said he still experienced “defective vision”.
MORE ABOUT FAIUMU
Faiumu, who has Samoan heritage, grew up in New Zealand and started playing rugby league for his country as a 16-year-old.
When Faiumu was 17, Australian league great Mal Meninga discovered the young talent and brought him to Australia to play for the Canberra Raiders in the National Rugby League.
Faiumu went on to play for the North Queensland Cowboys and was with the club when he assaulted Mr Anderson.
A number of character references were handed to the court yesterday, most of them from rugby league heads.
“The references highlight that this one punch on this night was entirely out of character for this young man and it is very much unlikely to ever happen again,” Mr Kissick said.
Faiumu has been playing rugby league and union since he was five-years-old and has never been sent off during a game.
During his time in Townsville, Faiumu was effectively employed as a youth worker.
Faiumu’s life ambition is to work with young people and teach them not to break the law.