Cocaine and Murder in the High Court, Wednesday 26 June 2013

Just to be clear, the cocaine was not actually discovered in the court-room, and the person who died, was somewhere else at the time.

Actually both cases could be described as “tragic” outcomes, not just for those directly involved, but for those such as friends and family, who are affected indirectly.

The day started in High Court number 2 with Honourable Justice Christian Whata giving a summation of the facts involved before pronouncing sentence in the case of Cameron John Lockie.

Cameron Lockie, 36, had earlier pled guilty to possessing cocaine for supply. Factors that went against him in sentencing included the large quantity involved (2.985 kilograms) and being 80% pure, the street value of approximately one million dollars (estimates ranged between $746,000 and $1,194,000).

His involvement it seemed had come about, after the cocaine shipment had arrived in through Auckland Airport.  Cameron Lockie had acted as a contact and go-between. He was not the importer and denied having a co-ordinating role.

It was detailed how Cameron Lockie was usually resident in Wanaka and was an active volunteer in his local outdoor search and rescue services. He has a wife and 2 children, a 5-year-old and a 3-month-old. Hs wife, still suffering post-natal depression, was described as being in a fragile state by justice Whata.

A respected builder in Wanaka, Camerone Lockie was flatting in Christchurch at the time, involved in reconstruction works here as an EQC assessor.

Referring to 19 individual testimonials of his good character, Justice Whata singled out one, for special mention, that from the Associate Editor of New Zealand Snowboard Magazine.

Considering previous submissions by the defence, the judge was able to take into account some elements on compassionate grounds.  Cameron Lockie had just one previous offence, a minor unrelated conviction some time ago, he was not paid for his part and was simply a facilitator. His wife’s state of health was also considered.

Justice Whata also considered earlier testimony that he was just “helping a friend in need” and that, that had not been challenged by the prosecution. The prospect of Lockie re-offending was considered “very low”.

It may have gone against him, that he had not pled guilty at the earliest opportunity. However Justice Whata accepted that after some discussions with the prosecution over the exact charges he would face, he had then pled guilty at the next earliest opportunity.

Several of the other people, who had already been dealt with by the court, had received discounts on their sentences for co-operating with the police.  Cameron Lockie had not assisted the police similarly and would not usually be eligible to receive that same discount, however the judge understood that, as the last link in the chain, no such co-operation was possible, and sought to ensure he was treated fairly under the circumstances.

Considering also that for those more deeply involved than he was, the sentences previously handed down to the organisers and couriers had varied from 7 to 12 years, the crown had sought 8 years for Mr Lockie.

Although he had been out on bail, and had complied fully with its terms, I’m fairly sure Cameron would have known that a custodial sentence was unavoidable, and would have brought his PJs and toothbrush with him to court this morning.

So after giving his lengthy summary, amounting to about 30 minutes (during which time His Honour granted Mr Lockie permission to be seated), the Honourable Justice Whata sentenced Cameron John Lockie to 2 years and 1 month of imprisonment.

The court then had a short recess before resuming the murder trial from the previous day.

The case involves the death in February 2012,  of 28-year-old Sri Lankan born farm worker  Sameera Madurangana Manikka Battelage (sometimes also known as Sameera Chandrasena or just Sammy), who was living in the Canterbury farming area of Oxford.

The Crown alleges that two of his drinking buddies, Mudiyanselage Viraj Wasantha Alahakoon, 34, and Thuvan Prawash Sawal, 24, cut and stabbed at his throat, killing him,  before setting fire to him with petrol in the early hours of the morning, of the 23rd of February.

Both of the accused, through their respective counsel, claim that it was the other who killed and set fire to Sameera Battelage (Chandrasena).

The case resumed with more testimony from a woman who has name suppression. In court she gave evidence obscured from the defendants’ view by a heavy curtain (however she was clearly visible to the judge and jury members).

In quiet voice she answered questions put to her by the prosecutor, replying in clear and good English, although with a noticeable “Indian” accent. Occasionally  her choice of vocabulary or word order  gave tell that English was a second language to her.

However the case proceeded only slowly as a court-room interpreter translated every question, and then her response, into the Sinhalese language (for the benefit of the two accused men).

It had already been outlined by the prosecution, that Mr Battelage (Chandrasena) had had a relationship with the female witness for a short time in 2011. Over a period of some 8 months they had sex on some four occasions.

The witness and Mr Alakahoon already knew each other. When sometime later, Mr Alakahoon found out about the relationship she had had with Mr Battelage (Chandrasena), the prosecution alleges he arranged with his friend Mr Sawal, for them to act together to kill  Mr Battelage (Chandrasena).

The testimony given by the female witness involved  descriptions of clothing and footwear that she had seen all the men wearing in the days surrounding the murder. There were also a number of moving-video clips shown to the court from CCTV security cameras located at the Belfast Tavern and inside the bottle-shop area.

There were several still-photos captured from the CCTV footage and the jury had already been provided with ring-binder files with numbered photographs to review.

The scenario was that the men went out together to the Oxford Workingmen’s Club on the evening of 22 February 2012 to watch a telecast of  a cricket match between Sri Lanka and South Africa.

They later went back to Battelage’s rented farmhouse on Domain Road, near the Oxford township and continued drinking there. It is at this location, sometime in the early hours of the morning, that the prosecution alleges the murder and burning of his body took place.

The prosecution asked the witness about the size of the victim in comparison to the two accused men.  He was “a tall boy” she said, and when asked if he was fit she said “Yes he was, (he) could be quite strong because of the job he’s doing”.

The witness also mentioned a Casio wristwatch that had been seized from Mr Sawal by the police.

Mr Alahakoon is also facing separate charges of assaulting a woman on 5 and 24 of December in 2011. In one instance it is claimed scissors were used in the attack. That woman has name suppression.

Defence counsel had advised they wished some extra time to take further instruction from their clients, and there were some legal points to be discussed directly with the judge, in the jury’s absence. So at 12.30, the court recessed for lunch and the jury were sent home early for the day. Defence counsel were due to appear before the judge at 2.15 pm to make their submissions on points of law.

The trial continues and is expected to last between four and six weeks. With the added factor of all questions, and responses, being translated into Sinhalese, this trial is both highly interesting and mind-numbingly boring, at the same time. It’s going to be a l-o-n-g month I think.

Other commitments will prevent my attendance at court every day, however I will be there on those days that I can be.

(Explanatory note on names. Sometimes inconsistencies exist in names, and this can be caused by a number of factors, especially when non-European names are “Anglicised” so they can be written using a normal English alphabet.  Other factors can be “tribal” names used in some cultures or names which change over the course of life. In some cultures, married women do not assume their husband’s surname and in some countries the surname or family-name goes first and the Christian or given name goes afterwards. Sometimes names can have a numeric meaning also. Much can be ‘lost in translation’. The most common language spoken in Sri Lanka is Sinhalese. This is usually written using a combination of two alphabets, which can trace their roots back thousands of years. The deceased man in the case currently before the court, has been referred to variously as Sameera Chandrasena and Sameera Madurangana Manikka Battelage. No offence is intended to any person. )


Monday Court Report, 24 June 2013

Monday Court Report, 24 June 2013

Nardine Atarina Whakarau, 40, unemployed of Hoon Hay, got a bit of a lucky break from both the prosecution and judge Doherty today.

The prosecution dropped one charge entirely, which seemed to be simply a duplicating error. However the remaining charge, on first look, appeared quite serious.

Police had attended at her address on an unrelated matter on 21 April and discovered, well quite simple, cannabis everywhere. The amount added up to about 1.25 kilograms in weight.

However the prosecution had already decided that, as much of it was low grade leaf (referred to in court as “cabbage”) and only some 280 grams as the more potent “buds” that it would be considered for her “own use” only.

(It seems to me that 280 grams, equivalent to 10 ounces in the old measure, is one hell of a large amount for  the “personal use” of any single person; (with the possible exception of medicinal use requirements of a cancer or HIV-AIDS patient). I guess she is just a “heavy user” of the herb).

So with no dealing charges, she was charged with the lesser offence of cultivating cannabis. She had previous convictions for cultivating cannabis in 1995 and an offence under the misuse of drugs act in 2006.

However His Honour gave her credit for pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity and noted that in the past she had successfully completed her community work order obligations. He also referred to assistance she was getting for alcohol related issues.

He sentenced her to 160 hours community work. Unsurprisingly, he ordered the 1.25 kilograms of cannabis recovered by police, be destroyed.

Tristram William Rossiter, 18, was in court because some time between 20 April and 11 May, he gained access to a locked internal office while the owners were away, and stole two credit-cards. He then went on s spending spree in Christchurch and Timaru, spending up big on clothing, electrical goods, accommodation, flights and pretty much anything else that took his fancy.

The total bill according to court paperwork last week was $11, 512.11 . However there were two other figures mentioned in court today, one being far higher at $21,040 and another figure around the $10,000 mark. Possibly one explanation for the different figures is that some goods may have been recovered. However with such a large discrepancy and the amounts differing on various documents, the judge ordered the matter to be remanded to a later date. He took the opportunity to order that, in the meantime, reports be prepared about whether electronic monitoring would be an option when it comes to sentencing.

The case of Kelly Gene Smith, 36, of West End in Palmerston North came up once again. He had failed to appear at Christchurch Court on Monday of last week, but was represented in his absence, by counsel Miss Millen, under instructions from Miss Litt.

Last week Judge Watson had ordered a warrant for his arrest for non-attendance, but allowed the warrant to lie in court for a week so that Mr Smith could attend at Christchurch District Court voluntarily.

Today he was in court. Represented again by Miss Millen on behalf of Miss Litt. He was remanded at large until August 30 for a Pre-Committal Conference and with two further matters to be referred back to the Palmerston North Court by Registrar’s Remand.

A certain Mr Mason (sorry I didn’t hear his first name and the paperwork for his case was not among the Press Sheets made available on the day) was up on some 26 charges, which ran to 19 pages of court documents.

Slightly aghast at what lay before him, Judge Doherty said to the police prosecutor “perhaps the sergeant can give us the pocket-version of the facts”.

Mr Mason’s modus operandi had been to phone elderly people living alone telling them he was from the Digital Television Company. He would then turn up at their door. Upon examining their televisions he would claim it required some parts or an upgrade, or in some cases, the need of an aerial or Freeview box.

He walked away with about $160 from many of the elderly victims and sometimes, quite a lot more (in some cases over $400). Reparations were being sought to the amount of $3,363.

He was convicted and remanded on bail until 10 September to allow a probation report to be prepared.

The judge ordered that report to include details as to whether an electronically monitored sentence may be appropriate, however he warned Mr Mason that due to the number of individual offences committed and that the victims being specifically targeted were particularly frail, aged, and in some cases disabled, that in all likelihood, he would be looking at a sentence of imprisonment.

One defendant I cannot name. He actually doesn’t have name suppression, but I just missed hearing his name entirely, and it was not in the paperwork I had examined earlier.

However what makes this case interesting, is that the company he worked for DID have interim name suppression.

Counsel for the defendant explained that although it was unusual for her to be speaking on the company’s behalf, it had suffered loss of clients already (until the earlier, interim suppression order was effected).

The judge ordered that the name suppression of the company which had employed the defendant, be continued until sentencing has occurred (expected to be at a date in September).

The defendant, had been working for a cleaning company (which I am not allowed to name) and had taken $1,100 in Australian currency from a wallet which he found unattended at a location he was cleaning. Reparation of NZ $1314 is being sought.

Although he pled guilty through counsel to that charge of “theft in a special relationship” more than 10 other charges were withdrawn by the prosecution.

Jacqueline Jay Jay Pohatu, 31, of Bryndwr had perhaps the day’s most interesting story to tell.

At 6 pm on 31 May she had “run interference” around a security guard who tried to detain a friend of hers as they left a Supervalue supermarket. The friend was in the process of stealing a pregnancy test-kit. Accused of punching the guard in the face, Jacqueline Pohatu pled guilty at the earliest opportunity. Counsel said she realised that the security guard was just doing their job.

Noting that alcohol was an issue, Judge Doherty fined her $350, with $132.89 court costs and said that the amount could be paid at the rate of $20 a week from her solo-parent’s benefit.

Court adjourned early for lunch, and I did not attend for the afternoon session.

I will miss the next two Monday sittings, as I have some training sessions to attend.

The photo is the main entrance of the Christchurch District and High Court building’s main entrance in Durham Street North, in  central Christchurch (what’s left of it).

GE / GM foods, public concerns expressed (video)

On Saturday afternoon 22 June 2013, I braved the terrible weather to attend at The WEA rooms in Gloucester Street, in the Christchurch inner city area (what’s left of it).

I arrived about 15 minutes earlier than the 4pm stated starting time, knocked loudly and went in through the front door. I checked a couple of the side-rooms, nobody was around.

After a few minutes, three other people arrived, one of them had attended at the WEA rooms before. They conducted a thorough exploration of the building, and finding no-one around, selected the largest room, turned on the lights and heaters and set some chairs out.

A few minutes later Steffan Browning, a Member or Parliament from The Greens political party arrived along with Bob Mackley a farmer from the state of Victoria in southern Australia. They had just flown in from Whangerei (in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand).

Over the next few minutes a few more people straggled in. The event had been promoted on Facebook and I would have expected a far higher turnout, but the weather that afternoon/evening was “inclement” to be polite. The rain was just torrential and accompanied by bitter cold winds (the snow and sleet having just left us in the 24 hours before).

I was given permission to film. There are a total of 11 segments recorded on two separate cameras. I didn’t expect the presentations to be as long as they were, both being about one hour each, or I would have brought an extension lead and run my  “better microphone” camera straight from a wall socket.

As it was, I recorded Steffan Browning’s six video segments using the camera with better lens, mic and optical zoom, although a fan heater was operating in the background for the first few segments.

I changed to my tiny miniature “back-up” camera for Bob Mackley’s five video segments. Technically high definition, this camera is limited by a tiny lens, digital zoom only, and an inferior microphone.  Steffan Browning also appears with Bob Mackley in the final two segments, which formed, in part a conclusion and question-time with the audience present.

Please note that there will be about one second missing in between each segment. This is a function of the cameras as I start and stop them. I tried to always pick a small gap in speaking between one slide and another, but needed to keep all segments shorter than 15 minutes for Youtube uploading.

Also there is some shaky hand-held as I was still attaching the second camera to the tripod as Bob Mackley started his talk.

Please consider this primarily an audio recording, and the video that you get is a bonus. Note that the front of the room was rather dark so the powerpoint slides could be viewed more easily on a screen. There were a handful of occasions when I adjusted the camera to try to give a better view of the slides on-screen at that time.

I would have required many thousands of dollars of extra tech equipment to do a proper multi-camera shoot, including connecting upto the laptop they used and directly inserting the powerpoint slides as appropriate.
However don’t come whining to me if you can’t read the slides from these videos. Just listen to the talk and anything else you get out of it is a bonus.

As so few people braved the weather (and I don’t blame them, I live nearby and I could barely be bothered going, although I was rather unwell at the time) but Mr Browning and Mr Mackley came a long way and went to a lot of trouble to give this presentation.

This video gives many more people the chance to experience the talks given.

It is up to people to make up their own minds on whether they want New Zealand to continue down the path of GE/GM genetically engineered or modified organisms…plants, animals and trees, all of which are rigidly patented and subject to various provisions of their foreign owners.

Please note the other 10 segments of video are NOT directly linked through this blog, please search for my Youtube account directly, KiwiCatherineJemma and the videos are numbered 360 to 370 (inclusive).  Note if you are seeking Green MP Steffan Brown’s earlier appearance at the Hagley-Riccarton street march a few weeks ago, then you will find videos numbered 348 to 357, on my Youtube channel.

Snow settles in Christchurch city

Snow settles in Christchurch city

Well the weather office had been warning about this storm-front. Overnight there were gale-force winds in many areas with driving rain.

The Wellington area was hit with hurricane-force wind gusts reported of up to 225 km/h. Even the upper South Island, wasn’t spared as winds in the Blenheim area were reported as averaging 153 km/h.

I left home just after 7.30am to walk to college. The ground was clear but wet, and I walked through the wind and sleety rain. Apart from the two tutors, I was initially the only student present. Two more arrived later.

I left that class at 10am, for the walk home, by which time the sleet had turned to a light but steady falling of snow. The build-up on parked cars was the most noticeable.

As I made my way home, my feet were drenched as I paddled at times through puddles hidden by slushy half-melted snow (since the Earthquakes of 2011, our footpaths in many places are uneven with bumps and hollows).

Having lived much of my life in the “almost Outback” of Australia, I usually detest wearing shoes. Most of the time I prefer to be in jandals (aka thongs or flipflops) or else some kind of open sandal. I was glad to have worn my sneakers this morning, but my feet were soaked through and very cold by the time I arrived home.

I wish I had worn my steel-cap work-boots instead. It was very slippery out there, being careful not to slip-over, I was thinking of the deep cleats in my boots that would have given me a more secure footing.

At least my top half was kept warm and dry. Thanks to the proverbial “dead animal”. On a stopover in Sydney in 2005 I bought an old fur-coat from a charity shop in Seven Hills. It doesn’t get worn often here in Christchurch, but comes out when it is particularly cold. (When I checked earlier it was just +2*C outside, today’s maximum is supposed to get to +7*C). As an “almost-vegetarian” I appreciate all the more, when an animal has died to give me a special meal, or to keep me warm and dry.

Remember this is usually a mild temperate climate, and regular snow is usually only found in the areas many hundreds of kilometres south of here, and at higher altitudes in mountainous areas.

Specialised “winter” tyres are unknown here, although many people that live or work in mountainous areas have 4-wheel-drive cars and trucks and some people have tyre-chains to fit when it snows or roads are too slippery because of ice.

Most South Island alpine passes have been closed by authorities. Arthur’s Pass is still open but only to vehicles with tyre-chains. (I had to go out yesterday afternoon, so even though it was only raining and with gale-force winds here in the city, I chucked my tyre-chains in the boot of the car “just in case”, along with an extra jack and several scraps of timber, so it’d be easier to install them at the roadside if necessary).

Now approaching 12 noon on Friday 21 June (hey it’s the first day of winter ! The REAL first day of winter) the  falling snow seems to have been replaced by rain. If this continues it will melt and wash away the snow before tonight. With a frost of a couple of degrees expected overnight tonight, if there’s any snow remaining on the roads it will turn to ice and greatly increase the danger to traffic.

The photo was taken outside a city tyre centre, showing the buildup of snow in just 2 hours.

Bread stocks running out the door as big freeze creeps north

Bread stocks running out the door

The gurus in weather forecasting have spent the last couple of days, announcing this, once-in-20-years cold front which is on its way to blanket the entire South Island, and much of the North.

Although I already have good stocks of most things on hand (being a prepper since I was 14-years-old and living half my life in the Australian Outback, I’m used to being pretty well stocked as a matter of course). But as I left computer class this morning, I popped into the Countdown supermarket across the road and thought I’d just get a handful of extra things.

Usually if I go in about 10.15 am the place is nearly empty. Today I noticed the supermarket was full with queues at every checkout, many people’s trolleys were chocka and buying-in-bulk seemed to be the mantra of the day. Even the carpark was full, and when I noticed even just a “walker” carrying half a dozen loaves of bread in their hands, I thought, yeah, I’ll grab m’self another loaf just to be on the safe side.

Well the cheapest option, the in-house home-brand bread was almost sold out. I got one of the few remaining loaves. There was still plenty of stock of the more expensive bread options though.

Actually I’m thinking the supermarket may well have taken a second delivery, of extra fresh bread stocks this morning. I heard some places had earlier run out of fresh bread by about 10 am.

On this morning’s television news they showed pictures of Queenstown supermarket whose shelves were picked bare yesterday, the folks down in the south of the South Island obviously stocked up early. As of 5 pm Wednesday 19 June reports of snow falling in Southland are just starting to come in.

Whether the snow gets as far up as Christchurch city, we will find out in good time. But we have been told to expect at the very least, heavy rain and sleet for two days.

The ground is already saturated with the widespread heavy rains we had just a few days ago, so it won’t take much more to bring on real flooding again.

Earlier this afternoon I re-arranged some subtropical pot-plants to bring them right up close to the wall of the house where they would be somewhat sheltered from sleet or snow. My front lawn was already saturated with water then, and on the point of starting to flood.

Those subtropical plants which live in the ground, may well be finished off by the upcoming spell of cold, even if we don’t quite get the snow. A frost of some -4*C is expected Friday morning. That’ll most likely kill off all the leaves of my Egyptian Ricinus and South American Physalis shrubs. I have small seedlings of those in pots right close to the house that should survive for next Spring’s replanting.

I’ve got spare disposable gas canisters for the portable cooker and petr-oil for the 240 volt mains generator, so I’m pretty right if the power goes off…except that, like most Christchurch people nowadays, I am entirely dependent on our, usually reliable, electricity supply for home heating. Over the last few decades there has been a huge push by government authorities to stop Christchurch and Canterbury residents using wood or coal for home heating. Unfortunately on those occasions that electricity does go off, most people nowadays have no alternatives for home heating available.

Previously as a student, I got used to being on a strictly limited income, I use the minimum of home heating I can get away with. But if I see snow, then I’ll be running a couple of heaters to keep this place warm enough. Pretty pleased that last month’s electricity bill was only $96, and I do have a flatmate, although he’s away at college or elsewhere, much of the time.

Don’t even get me started on how, in the last 25 or so years, the electricity price has increased from 4.5 cents per kw/hr unit to about 26 c/kw/hr . Remember that the south of the South Island has many huge hydro dams that are already bought and paid for, and have a 1,000 year lifespan. So the only actual costs are some maintenance as  needed to existing infrastructure.

Western Australia by comparison, generates electricity by burning petroleum gas (which it must pay full price for) or burning diesel, or some coal fired power stations with access to the lowest grade of coal there is, and West Aussies still get their electricity much cheaper than South Islanders in New Zealand, go figure.

Christchurch Court Report, Monday 17 June 2013

Despite the rain that is causing floods and landslips throughout the entire length of the South Island, the wheels of justice must roll on.  Monday being my weekly court round, I found myself in Judge Watson’s court today.

The courtroom was less busy than last week, and the prosecutor’s desk seemed to be getting cleared somewhat quicker.  Court recessed for lunch earlier, and then ended the day earlier also.

Philippe Plot, 56, of Hororata, was before the court for the first time, and this perhaps helped temper what might have been a more severe sentence. He had been caught driving along Coaltrack Road in Coalgate on 12 April 2013, with a breath alcohol reading in excess of 400 micrograms.  Mr Plot pled guilty through the duty solicitor. Judge Watson, referring to the actual test result of 1089 micrograms describing it as “a very high reading” and said Mr Plot was obviously “severely impaired” and that it was lucky the police stopped him before he went on to crash and injure or kill himself or someone else. Given that Mr Plot had no previous offending, Judge Watson  fined him $800, with $132.89 court costs and disqualified him from driving for eight months.   The duty solicitor said that Mr Plot was employed as a painter and would be applying for a limited licence in due course.

Kelly Gene Smith, 36, of West End in Palmerston North was conspicuous by his absence. He was represented in his absence by counsel Miss Millen acting on instructions from Miss Litt.  Counsel did say that he could attend court at Palmerston North today if required. However, considering that there were a number of charges pending and there was still some confusion as to whether a trial by jury had been already selected as an option, Judge Watson insisted that he appear in the Christchurch court. He ordered that a warrant be issued for Mr Smith’s arrest, but directed that it lie in court un-actioned until noon on Monday 24 June. This would allow the defendant the opportunity to choose to appear in Christchurch on that day of his own volition, rather than be arrested and transported here by force.

The defendant with the most interesting job perhaps, was Kyle Trevor John Beazley, 26, a soldier based at Burnham Military Camp (just outside Christchurch).  On 7 June he had been caught in Victoria Street, Central Christchurch, with a breath alcohol reading exceeding 400 micrograms.  He pled guilty through his counsel, student lawyer Miss Hoffman, (who was under the watchful eye of a more senior lawyer). Miss Hoffman noted several mitigating factors, including that he had been detected only by a random stop and had not been driving in an obviously unsafe manner, and that he had pled guilty at the earliest opportunity. (I daresay that his reading of 486 micrograms alcohol per litre of breath was probably the lowest figure presented in court today). It was further explained that there was a 50/50 chance that he may lose his job as a result of a drink-driving conviction. Considering all the factors, Judge Watson fined Mr Beazley $400 with $132.89 court costs and a siz month licence disqualification starting from today, and made the comment that he thought that to cut short this young soldier’s career, would be excessive under the circumstances.  Mr Beazley is most certainly hoping that his superiors in the military take into account the judge’s closing remarks.

Michelle Marcia Holden, 41, of Eyrewell Forest in Waimakiriri District, might also have to struggle to retain her job as a Security Officer. Found on Main North Road on 24 May with a breath alcohol reading of 494 micrograms. She would have been considered as a first offender, had she not appeared in court just last month on another alcohol impaired driving charge (stopped by police in March with a reading of 784 micrograms). However the judge went to pains to explain that the two matters, arising from offences that were committed close together in time, should have been dealt with on the same day, at her earlier court appearance. Carefully considering the situation, his Honour wanted to ensure that she was treated no worse than if the offences had been considered together. The matter was stood down for a period to enable updated court records to be searched. Re-commencing later in the day, the judge noted that she was in a “perilous financial position”. After considering all factors, Judge Watson sentenced her to 60 hours of Community Work, and as part of that, remitted her outstanding fines of $732. He ordered a three months disqualification from driving, which will commence on November 28 when her current disqualification period ends.

Christopher Gibson Haussrer of Upper Riccarton entered guilty pleas to an assault charge against Stuart Guy Nicholls  and being found without reasonable excuse at a building in Clonburn Street on 31 May (that charge being substituted for a previous charge of burglary). Accepting the guilty pleas, the judge failed to enter a conviction at this stage and amended the current bail condition that he was not to associate with the complainant. He would be allowed to associate with the complainant but only for the purposes of a restorative justice process. He was remanded further to June 29 to allow for the restorative justice session to take place, and reminded Mr Haussrer that his bail conditions included a strict ‘no alcohol’ clause.

Sukhwinder Singh, 21, of Addington, pled guilty through his counsel to charges of driving with 654 micrograms of breath alcohol and driving while forbidden. On 22 March 2012, Mr Singh (who has an Indian driving licence) had been forbidden to drive until he obtained a New Zealand licence. On the breath alcohol charge, Judge Watson fined him $600, with $132.89 costs and gave a six month licence disqualification. On the driving while forbidden charge, he was convicted and discharged.

That was the highlights, among the  more mundane warrants to arrest, for no-shows, were assorted other formalities, such as applications for limited driving licences. Four such licences were granted today, to applicants who needed to drive for their work. (If a person has had their licence suspended, because of driving under the influence of alcohol, they may apply for a limited licence. They are only granted under certain conditions).

Court finished for the day just before 4pm and I braved the wintry weather outside to return home.

Competition prizes you DON’T need.

Sometimes  I enter competitions, but occasionally I am annoyed at competitions which seem directed towards the very people that DON’T have any real need of the prize.

In the past I have seen competitions where the prize is a brand new car (yes thanks, that would be nice, as my car is more than 25-years-old, although I choose to drive it, in part, because it is a rare classic model). However some competitions are only open to those people who have just bought a brand-spanking-new car.

Well hello ! If you have just been able to afford to buy (or finance) a brand-new car, you don’t need another one, do you ?

Yesterday I was driving (in my old car) listening to “The Coast” (one of the few AM stations left) and I half-heard about a competition. So today I went online and checked out the details on their website.

The contest is associated with a tv series  “I Was There” currently airing on the channel called Heartland.  The prize is a one year subscription to SKY pay tv.

(In New Zealand there is a monopoly with just one pay-tv provider, Sky).

The tv channel Heartland is NOT on the few remaining old analogue tv services, nor is it available on Digital Terrestrial Freeview or Satellite Freeview free tv services.

Heartland is available ONLY through paying a Sky subscription. You need to have a Sky subscription through either their satellite service or through the Sky-enabled Igloo terrestrial digital decoder box.

Don’t get me wrong “I Was There” sounds like a great series, and just the sort of documentary I’d love to see. Looking at New Zealand’s history of the last 40 years, through the lens of our nation’s local media.

But unfortunately, you can only enter the competition,  and have a chance to win a year’s Sky pay tv subscription (including  access  to Heartland), if you already have, Sky pay tv !

Oh well, another competition where the prize seems almost to be aimed at people who don’t need it (and, as someone who refuses to pay the Sky monopoly machine, I’m shut out as well).