As I had not previously reported at this court before, I introduced myself to the Court Registrar of District Court number 1. After saying who I was and where I was from, I was directed to take a seat at the Press Bench, where I spent the next few hours.
Initially the public gallery was nearly full, and the three long benches set aside for defence counsel didn’t have too many spaces on them either.
A seemingly endless procession of Community Probation Hearings, many, many of them. Mixed in amongst them where a fair number of, well, no-shows, for whom Warrants-to-Arrest were routinely issued. One no-show was later forgiven by the judge when it was explained that the defendant had turned up at the previous temporary court premises located on a (Maori community) Marae. Full services only returned to the Christchurch Court building, a week or so ago.
Judge Couch, who has been on the bench at the District Court in Christchurch for some eight years, kept things moving along nicely, and the prosecuting sergeant’s desk, which started out “chocka” full of files, slowly began to clear.
Apparently the really naughty people were going through District Court number 2 or the other courts upstairs. But I will include here a few of the highlights of the not quite as naughty, naughty people, that went through District Court number 1.
Russell Alan Moa, 45, unemployed of Burnside, had been arrested and charged with intent to injure and was remanded until 24 June. Bail conditions included that he was not to go to Robbies Bar nor to have any contact with the complainant.
The cases of several other defendants, had to be bound over until the 24 of June as in every case. figures had not yet been made available as to how much reparations would cost. One case involved a man having smashed two windscreens with his bare hands and another involved someone’s drunken fall onto a police car’s side mirror. As yet another such case came up where reparations would be sought, but the actual amount had not yet been fixed, His Honour said “a bad time on reparation today !”
I think 24 June sounds like it is going to be a busy busy day ! Graham Kempton Fletcher, 42, was also remanded until late June on three existing matters.
Thankfully many cases were fully dealt with, such as Andrew Robert Condliffe, 27, forklift operator of Linwood. On 17 May he had been detected with 455 micrograms of breath alcohol (that comes with automatic 28 day licence suspension). He pled guilty through the duty solicitor and admitted to the judge that he already had some fines outstanding that he was paying back on a weekly basis. He was fined a further $500, with $132.89 court costs and 8 months disqualification, which will commence at the expiry of the current 28 day suspension term. When he does get his licence restored he will be under the terms of a “zero alcohol licence” for a period of three years.
Steven John Richmond, 46, unemployed of Ilam, was pulled over in the early morning of 25 May at a roadside checkpoint and found to have breath alcohol of 661 micrograms. His counsel made a point that he was not stopped for any driving offence or unsafe driving, and that since returning to New Zealand from working overseas on oil and gas projects, he had suffered health issues and depression. He was fined $600 with $132.89 court costs and a six-month licence disqualification starting today.
Hamish Matthew Leigh Tranter, 19, unemployed of Somerfield, was also found guilty of a breath alcohol offence that occurred on 25 May. He pled guilty through the duty solicitor and with quite some amount of fines already outstanding, he was fined a further $400 and $132.89 court costs.
Things weren’t all bad though, for Joan Margaret Quinn, 49, of Cheviot in North Canterbury. On 24 May Mrs Quinn was discovered driving her husband’s car. Currently he is in jail. Unsurprisingly she did not want her husband’s car confiscated. She pled guilty through her counsel Mrs Yardley to a charge of driving while disqualified, third or subsequent offence. Judge Couch, referring to her original indefinite suspension back in May of 2004, said that the indefinite suspension must have been “for very good reason”. Considering her particular circumstances, being the sole carer of her wheelchair-bound, cerebral palsy and autistic, adult son, His Honour went on to say that this was a very rare occasion as he “applied section 94, twice in one day”. Using his discretion he sentenced her to 100 hours of community work (partly in lieu of licence disqualification) and suggested she apply for the required assessment to have her licence reinstated.