Judge warns soccer manager next time it’s jail

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A Queenstown junior soccer boss could face the boot after narrowly avoiding jail this week. 

Damien Hochberg, manager of the Queenstown Junior Football Club and Central Otago Football Association’s rep coordinator, has been given a final chance to keep on the right side of the law after a second driving-while-disqualified conviction. 

Wanaka-based COFA pres­ident Rudi Sanders says he’s surprised to hear about Hochberg’s latest court 
appearance. 

“It’s not a good thing to have a rep coordinator or someone who’s responsible for youth football [convicted of] driving while disqualified. We are not in a position to fire him – the Football Club has got to do that. 

“We will reconsider our position on this one and whether to see if he’s still qualified to be the rep coordinator.”
Sanders adds: “It’s a pity. He’s a good guy. He’s doing a lot of good work for the Queenstown Football Club.” 

Queenstown Juniors’ pres­ident Rene Kampman agrees Hochberg’s doing a great job and suggests he had “brain fade” to make the mistake a second time. 

“In terms of his role as club manager he’s not required to drive – he’s required to organise.” 

He’ll discuss the situation with his committee in the next week. 

In Queenstown District Court on Monday, Judge Kevin Phillips sentenced Hochberg to 180 hours’ community work after he pleaded guilty to the charge. 

“You have an atrocious list of offending, particularly in relation to your abuse of alcohol and driving motor vehicles. There can be no excuse. 

“You need to understand your record will be notified. Next time you will go to prison.” 

The court heard that Hochberg, a 27-year-old self-employed events manager, drove a car on Camp Street at 6.45pm on September 24. He’d previously been convicted in June for driving while disqualified. 

In explanation, Hochberg told police he was running late “picking up some errands for a football tournament before things closed”, police prosecutor sergeant Ian Collin says. 

In court, Hochberg’s lawyer Phena Byrne says he’s up to date with community work from his June conviction, when he was sentenced to 80 hours. 

“The message is finally getting home to this man that he simply cannot disregard court orders,” she says. 

Judge Phillips also disqualified Hochberg for a further 12 months, beginning November 18.