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Devoy told to speak out over Veitch testimonial

Published: 8:23AM Saturday April 18, 2009 Source: NZPA

A lawyer following the Tony Veitch assault case says Dame Susan Devoy should tell the sentencing judge she felt misled by the Veitch team.

Dame Susan provided a testimonial to Veitch, believing it would be used in an application to get his passport back and not as a character reference when he appeared in court on a charge of assaulting his former girlfriend.

Veitch pleaded guilty to one charge of assaulting Kristin Dunne-Powell with reckless disregard for her safety. Six other charges of assault were dismissed when the Crown offered no evidence.

The charges were laid after a heated argument at Veitch's home in Herne Bay, Auckland, early in 2006.

During the argument Veitch kicked Ms Dunne-Powell in the back, breaking bones and confining her to a wheelchair and crutches for several weeks. She also had to quit her job.

Veitch paid her nearly $170,000 in compensation for lost income, medical and other expenses.

In court, Veitch was fined $10,000, ordered to do 300 hours community work and placed on supervision for nine months.

During the sentencing Judge Jan Doogue said the 20 testimonials Veitch produced, including one from Dame Susan Devoy, played a part in her sentencing decision.

But Dame Susan said her reference to Veitch's passport was removed from her letter which was handed to the judge.

Lawyers believe it was unethical and would certainly upset a judge.

"It's pretty bloody rough,' said one criminal lawyer, who did not want to be named.

It was unlikely the case would be recalled but he had no doubt Judge Doogue would be very upset she had been given doctored documents, he said.

"I would say the legal profession is very surprised a reference given in good faith was amended."

Dame Susan said she felt "betrayed' and misled over the way her testimonial was handled and that it was an abuse of her trust.

The reference was among 20 used at a secret sentence indication hearing on Wednesday, the day before Veitch appeared in court and pleaded guilty.

She said she would not have written a testimonial had she known it was to be used as mitigation at his sentencing for such a serious charge and she supplied it because she believed Veitch had the right to work again.

"I wrote that he had the right to work again and I made it very clear that I'd written it for a passport application."

Olympic Games chef de mission and Black Caps manager Dave Currie was also asked for a reference and said he was surprised it had surfaced in court.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry said yesterday he had thought his testimonial would remain "confidential and private" and hoped his comments were not misconstrued.

Veitch's media minder, Glenda Hughes, said the references were asked for before the sentence indication hearing, which needed to be kept confidential, and that was why there was a story about the passport application.

However, a lawyer rubbished that explanation and said Dame Susan should think about her position.

"If I was Devoy I would write to the judge and say that I was particularly concerned that my reference was misused."

Some judges might asked for an explanation, he said.

Veitch's lawyer, Stuart Grieve, QC, refused to comment, but Christchurch lawyer Nigel Hampton, QC, said it was ethically questionable.

During the sentencing, Kristin Dunne-Powell read a victim impact statement in which she said she felt Veitch had blamed her and she felt "helpless, isolated and threatened".

Yesterday, she said all she wanted him to do was say he was sorry.