Debate has raged since yesterday's decision by a District Court judge to discharge Blues rugby player George Moala without conviction.
The 24-year-old was instead ordered to pay $2500 in emotional damages to Clifford Matoka, who Moala was found guilty of assaulting in a late-night bar brawl on Auckland's Karangahape Rd in 2012.
The Crown argued Moala was instrumental in starting the brawl, which left Mr Matoka with a concussion and significant blood loss.
But Judge Rob Ronayne sided with Moala's lawyer, Paul Wicks, QC, conceding the impact of a conviction - Moala could lose his rugby contract and would be prohibited from touring some countries - outweighed the severity of the crime.
Auckland University law professor Bill Hodge has expressed concern a "two-tier system of justice" is emerging where sports stars and celebrities are discharged without conviction because it may affect their careers.
Mr Hodge told onenews.co.nz judges should be "a little more critical, a little more sceptical, and a little less accepting" of arguments put forward about defendents' future employment prospects.
Mr Hodge said prior convictions are a matter for employers to take into consideration, and "judges shouldn't put on the boots of the employer."
But Canterbury University's head of law, Chris Gallavin, told onenews.co.nz he believes New Zealand is "far from a two-tier system".
"It's a good thing judges have the flexibility to take circumstances into account," Mr Gallavin said. "Public outrage should be tempered with the reality that the punishment should meet the crime."
Mr Gallavin said the test should be on whether punishment would be "over and above the normal hardship resulting from a conviction", and Moala's defence were able to convince the judge that was the case.
Public feedback, however, was in strong agreement with Mr Hodge - reaction on ONE News' Facebook page was swift and unanimous.
"Just because He is a sports Person does not make Him any different from Working ( or not ) Joe Blogs. Fed up with the star treatment these Blokes get. Punishment should fit the crime every time," said Colleen O'sullivan, with the most liked comment.
"Unbelievable. If he was found guilty of a vicious assault in court, he should face the same sentence as any other person who commits the same/similar crime ... possibly a greater sentnece as he is supposed to be a role model for many of our young people to look up to and aspire to," Doug Lambert said.
"If your a sports person your above the law it would seem!!" "Eddy Gies said.