Former All Black Zac Guildford sentenced for 'savage' assault of woman

Former All Black Zac Guildford has been named as the man responsible for punching a woman in the face in a 2019 incident.

In January, the 32-year-old fought for permanent name suppression at his sentencing at the Hamilton District Court, which was denied by Judge Robert Spear.

Guildford's lawyer immediately appealed that decision, which was heard at the High Court in Hamilton in February. 

In March, Justice Paul Davison QC deemed that the public should know Guildford was behind the assault, which had been described as "savage and appalling".

Guildford also appealed his sentence of two years' intensive supervision, which Davison described as lenient, given his offending.

"The brutality and considerable force behind the blow is illustrated by the nature of the injuries caused to the victim," Justice Davison wrote in a decision released after the appeal.

"It was clearly serious offending and the fact that it took place in the context of the appellant being severely intoxicated by alcohol is no excuse whatsoever."

Davison added that any sense of shame for Guildford regarding his name being revealed is "no more than would be the usual consequences of publicity to other persons convicted of similar offending, whose offending is reported in the media".

The assault happened inside a car in the Napier suburb of Taradale on December 20, 2019, while Guildford was heavily intoxicated.

Guildford was sitting in the backseat of the car and - without warning - punched the front-seated victim in the face.

Neither the victim nor Guildford were able to recall exactly what sparked the assault, but it was believed to be a remark about a family member.

Guildford was in the All Blacks' World Cup-winning squad in 2011.
Guildford was in the All Blacks' World Cup-winning squad in 2011. Photo credit: Getty

The victim - who now lives overseas - was forced to depart the next day, with her face covered with bruising, and still has issues breathing through her nose, as a result of the assault.

"This was a savage blow, delivered to an unsuspecting woman that caused significant injury," Judge Spear said. "You could well have been charged with a more serious offence than this."

Guildford has told Stuff he decided not to appeal the decision, because he wanted to "take off his mask" to set an example for other offenders.

"Through this whole thing, I've tried to front up and take ownership of it, although it might not seem like it, due to wanting name suppression," he tells Stuff.

"That's because I was still hiding behind a lot of guilt and shame, but also still chasing the rugby dream. 

"Now in the job that I do love, I encourage other men to take their mask off, so evidently I’m taking mine off too."

Guilford's lawyer, Rob Quin, told the court his client was "extremely embarrassed" and had sought permanent name suppression to avoid damaging his opportunity to play for the Perth-based Western Force Super Rugby team.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Andrew Kennedy said Guildford hadn't received any offer from the Western Australia club.

Guildford - a member of the 2011 World Cup-winning All Blacks squad - has a history of alcohol-related indiscretions, including a citation for drunken assault in Rarotonga in 2011.

He has since struggled to find a playing home, bouncing from club to club, with brief stints with the Waratahs and Wairarapa Bush.

"You are in desperate need to take counselling for the alcohol abuse," said Judge Robert Spear during sentencing. "You are a binge drinker.

"There is no alternative, but for this court to help you deal with the problems that you are not capable of dealing with yourself."

Guildford apologised to his victim personally, taking part in a reconciliation meeting.

"I'd like to apologise to the victim," he tells Stuff. "I have done everything in my power to express my sincere apologies. 

“I’m ashamed of what happened… I was going through a number of mental health and addiction challenges.

"I think we're on a mutual ground, where she genuinely knows it was a bad mistake and I'm paying the price for it now, and it will never happen again.

"I've made a mistake. It was due to the fact that I was still drinking heavily and it took me to hit rock bottom to realise I can't drink any more.

"When I look back at myself, I'm not sure why it took 32 years to drop, but eventually it has.

"I'm not going to take the foot off the brake, keep working on self and that will set me free of that past that I’ve been holding on to for so long."

Guildford wants to continue in his role as a mental health support worker in the Wairarapa, where he also works with people in domestic violence.

Where to find help and support: 

Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633

Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)

Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737

What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)

Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat

Samaritans - 0800 726 666

Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584