Wellington Lions player Losi Filipo escapes conviction after group attack

Losi Filipo
Losi Filipo

A Wellington Lions rugby player who beat up four people last year - including two women -  was discharged without conviction on all four charges.

Losi Filipo, 18, has a contract with the Wellington Rugby Union, but he was let off because of the effect a conviction would have on his rugby career.

Almost a year after rugby player Greg Morgan and three of his friends were attacked by Filipo, he still cries when he thinks about everything he's lost.

"I did have a potential contract with the Wellington Lions," he told Newshub through tears.

But that contract won't be happening.

Mr Morgan couldn't work for eight months after the attack. He's just returned to work part time and still suffers chronic fatigue and migraines. He's been told he'll never play rugby again.

"Like every Kiwi bloke, you play rugby all your life so it's quite emotional really to have that taken away."

In stark contrast, it's a contract with Wellington Rugby that's helped Mr Filipo - a New Zealand schools and Wellington age group rep - get discharged without conviction.

"If you're a talented player, if you've got a future in it you can get away with it - away with anything you know. It shouldn't be like that," says Mr Morgan.

The attack happened in Wakefield Street in central Wellington in the early hours of a Saturday night last October.

"We could hear their footsteps - they were running - running towards us, continuing to ask us to fight them," another victim, Hayden Williams, says.

Mr Morgan recalled Mr Filipo was "just seeing red. He kept repeatedly saying he just wanted to bash me".

And he did - Mr Morgan was grabbed and punched in the head.

When he hit the ground, Mr Filipo stomped on his head several times - his friends feared the worst.

"He did look dead - I thought he was," friend Olivia Samuels said.

He then went for Ms Samuels.

"And then I saw Losi running towards me and that's when, with a clenched fist, he punched me straight in the throat and I fell down," she recalls.

His next target was Kelsey Odell.

"He then came behind me and clenched his fist again. [He] punched me straight in the chin. I fell to the ground [and] blood was just pouring out. I was hyperventilating - totally in shock," Ms Odell says.

The brothers then restrained Mr Williams and took turns punching his face and body and then gloated about it.

"And they were all shouting and cheering. They came up into my face - Losi had come up into my face like they had achieved something great," Ms Samuels says.

Williams couldn't work for three months. Odell, a model, now has to get plastic surgery to her face, while Ms Samuels - a world class barbershop singer - thought she'd never be able to sing again.

Police charged Filipo with:

All crimes can carry prison sentences.

The judge said conventional sentencing would demand a starting point of at least one-and-a-half years' imprisonment.

But he opted to give Mr Filipo a chance to fulfil his potential instead, saying: "I have to ask myself are the courts in the business of destroying people's career prospects?"

"If it was anyone else on the street, they wouldn't be let off for any of this - for attacking four of us - punching two females," Ms Odell says.

Asked if she thought Mr Filipo has been let off, she replied: "definitely".

Mr Filipo said in a statement to Newshub he sincerely regrets what happened.

"I took full responsibility for my actions by pleading guilty to the charges and have apologised through my lawyer to the people involved.

"I have been fortunate to have support from throughout the community so that I continue to take positive steps to ensure nothing like this ever happens again."

Wellington Rugby chief executive Steve Rogers said in a statement the organisation was aware of the incident.

"Wellington Rugby does not condone Losi's actions, but also believe he is genuinely remorseful for what happened. We are committed to helping Losi ensure he does not make the same mistakes again and have put in place structures to help him work toward a positive long term outcome."