'Unprovoked': Philip 'Scoop' Chandler needed hospital treatment after Paul Ahern attacked him in Mountain Scene's office in December 2005.
In December, a long-running court case comes to an end with the publication of the following statement:
Cooper Case Withdrawn
A four-year-old defamation case brought by former Queenstown mayor Warren Cooper against Mountain Scene has been settled prior to its scheduled February 27 trial. Cooper’s lawyer approached the paper’s lawyer early this month to discuss resolving the matter. Mountain Scene has made no payment of any kind to Cooper to settle matters. The former mayor has made an undisclosed contribution to Mountain Scene’s costs. All other details of the settlement are confidential and no further comment will be made by the parties.
For the fourth year in a row, Mountain Scene again takes second place in the ‘Suburban & Community Newspaper’ category at the Qantas Media Awards.
In December 2005, veteran editor-at-large Philip ‘Scoop’ Chandler is the victim of what a sentencing judge later calls "an unprovoked, serious assault" in Mountain Scene’s office. A male unknown to him calls to discuss an article published 18 months earlier which he’s unhappy about, demanding $10,000 to settle the matter.
He then kicks Chandler in the groin and repeatedly punches him around the head and shoulders. Hearing the commotion, four newspaper staffers restrain the man until police arrive.
Chandler is bloodied, bruised and requires stitches – he’s off work almost a week. The man, remanded on bail for a psychiatric report, is granted name suppression and initially pleads not guilty.
Three months later, he changes his plea to guilty and a lawyer acting for Mountain Scene successfully argues that name suppression should be lifted. The attacker is revealed as Paul Richard Ahern, 33, from a well-known Queenstown family but now living in Wanaka.
Judge Brian Callaghan said he was "mindful" of Ahern’s "mental health background and this may have some influence on the outcome of sentencing…"
Four months after the attack on Chandler, Ahern is sentenced by Judge John Walker to 200 hours community service and two years of supervision.
The judge said such an "unprovoked, serious assault" might normally lead to a jail sentence but this wasn’t appropriate for Ahern. The judge attached special conditions, including "undergoing such treatment for a mental disorder as recommended by your clinician".
Judge Walker said the attack was "inexplicable" going by Ahern’s background, but "explicable" regarding a psychiatric report on his mental function.
"What that report tells me is that the exact nature of your mental health position remains unclear and you do suffer from a mental disorder," the judge told Ahern. "You were clearly psychotic and quite mentally ill at the time and immediately after the assault."