In the Press

Harder to Mellower for Renegade

MAVERICK LAWYER Christopher Harder was booted out of the courtroom five years ago this month – but the bad boy of Kiwi law is back.


Melanie Coxon First to Trim Fees

One Auckland barrister is heeding the advice of an Australian chief justice who recently told lawyers it was time they too took responsibility for the credit crisis and unravelling global economic landscape.


UK Pensioner Let Off Fraud


An English pensioner has admitted running up a $2,275.50 cab fare traveling the North Island without the money to pay for it.

Former British Army captain Ian Lalor-Smith, aged 64, later told the police that he could travel the world for similar money and did not intend to pay.

Yesterday in the Auckland District Court he threw up his hands and yelled "thank you, Lord" when Judge Sharon McAuslan discharged him without conviction on one fraud charge.

He has repaid the driver of Discount Taxi Cabs $700.

The court heard how Lalor-Smith rang Discount Taxis on April 12 and was taken from his Auckland hotel to Dominion Rd.

He then asked the driver to take him to Taupo and charged $167.50 on his credit card — $67.50 for his

Auckland fare and a $100 deposit on the North Island tour.

At Taupo Lalor-Smith told the driver he did not have a fixed destination and asked him to keep driving south.

Two and a half hours north of Wellington the driver became concerned and drove back to Auckland.

Lalor-Smith presented his credit card for the fare but it was declined.

The court heard that he did not have sufficient clear funds at the outset of the journey to pay.

Lalor-Smith's lawyer, Melanie Coxon, said he thought the journey would have been cheaper because he was familiar with the prices of English cabs.

He paid for the taxi driver's wife and children's dinner and for them to stay in a hotel for the night.

They had traveled with him in the taxi although there had not been a discount given for the family outing.

Youth has Murder Charge Dropped

A murder charge has been dropped against one of the two teenagers accused of killing Tokoroa father of two Paul Hedley in August last year.

The youth — who was aged 16 when Mr Hedley, 35, was fatally stabbed while walking home in the dark — was discharged under section 347 of the Crimes Act when he appeared in the High Court at Rotorua yesterday.

His counsel, Melanie Coxon, said Justice Potter had found insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge after a statement the youth allegedly made to the police was ruled inadmissible.

The youth's co-accused, a 17-year-old student, will go to trial on October 19. Both teenagers have name suppression.

Judge Throws out Teenager's Murder Charge


A South Waikato teenager jointly accused murdering a Tokoroa father-of-two last year had the charge thrown out due to a lack of evidence.

The 17-year-old from Putaruru, whose name is suppressed, was due to appear in the Rotorua Youth Court today on an alternative charge of assaulting Paul Hedley after appearing in the High Court at Rotorua yesterday.

Mr Hedley, 35, died early on August 8 last year from a single stab wound to the heart. The timber worker was returning home after walking a friend to a nearby house when he was allegedly attacked by two young people.

Following a two-day hearing in the High Court in April, -Justice Laurenson ruled the Putaruru teenager's statement to Detective Margaret Blackshaw inadmissible.

In the statement, he had admitted punching Mr Hedley in the stomach.

Justice Laurenson said in his ruling that the decision by the teen's aunt to waiver the right to a lawyer was "not truly an informed one"..-

The teenager's counsel, Auckland's Melanie Coxon, argued that the teenager's aunt did not understand there was a chance her nephew would be charged with murder.

Justice Laurenson agreed, saying the moment the accused said he had punched Mr Hedley the pair should have been warned the teen was in jeopardy of being charged.

In the high court yesterday Justice Potter threw out the charge of murder because the Crown no longer had enough evidence.

Meanwhile, an 18-year-old Tokoroa man is due to be tried for Mr Hedley's murder in the High Court at Rotorua on October 19.

Man Sent to Jail for Lying About HIV in Court

Ghanaian gained NZ residency by giving false details on the medical form.

A Ghanaian with HIV has been jailed for six months for lying in his application for New Zealand residency.

In the Auckland District Court yesterday, Judge Anne Kiernan refused to grant leave to 38-year-old Ishmael Asamoah to apply for home detention.

But she did agree to give him bail pending an appeal to the High Court against sentence and possibly conviction.

Asamoah sprang to prominence last year when his Australian wife, who contracted the disease, was awarded $727,437 in a negligence action against two Sydney doctors for not telling her about his condition.

Last month Judge Kiernan found Asamoah guilty of fraudulently ticking "no" to a question on a medical form in 2000 on whether he was HIV-positive.

He then used the form to get a residency visa and residency permit.

Asamoah was able to apply as the spouse of an Australian, who has an automatic right to New Zealand residency.

The judge said Asamoah knew in 1998 he was HIV-positive.

He did not tell his wife about his condition before they married the following year and he did not tell the New Zealand authorities, as he was required to do.

The judge said the couple had separated by the time Asamoah came to New Zealand in 2001.

He now has another partner, also an Australian, but has been denied a visitor's visa to return to Australia to visit his 3-year-old daughter by his former wife.

Labour Department lawyer Jane Rushton said New Zealand residency was highly prized.

She called for a deterrent sentence to preserve the integrity of the immigration service.

Judge Kiernan said she did not accept that it was a life-and-death situation that prompted Asamoah to lie on the form.

Defence counsel Melanie Coxon said Asamoah ticked the "no" box as a "basic instinct for survival". He would die if he were returned to Ghana, where medical treatment was expensive and beyond his means. But Judge Kiernan said she did not accept that it was a life-and-death situation that prompted Asamoah to lie on the form.

Before coming to New Zealand, Asamoah was already receiving treatment in Australia for his HIV. He could have continued receiving treatment there.

Judge Kieman said the aggravating features were the benefit Asamoah received in the form of his New Zealand residency and essential medical treatment costing $10,000 to $13,000 a year.

There was also the risk to people in this country.

The main aggravating feature, she said, was Asamoah's premeditation — he knew as far back as 1998 that he had the condition.

The judge said there was no evidence before her that Asamoah would be deported and returned to Ghana, where he might not have access to life-saving treatment.

Her task was to sentence him for his offence, not to assess whether or not he should remain in New Zealand.

It was important that people should be deterred from giving false information on application forms to live in New Zealand.

The Immigration Service relied on honest disclosure.

Outside the court, Immigration Service fraud investigator John Marston said Asamoah's file would be sent to Wellington to assess whether his residency should be revoked.

Home Detention Bid for Main in HIV Case

A Ghanaian with HIV who was jailed for six months for lying on his application for New Zealand residency was this week allowed to apply for home detention.

Ishmael Asamoah, 39, was found guilty in the Auckland District Court last year of ticking the "no" box on a 2001 medical questionnaire on whether he was HIV-positive, when he knew he was.

He then used the document to obtain a residency permit.

In the High Court at Auckland, Justice Marion Frater dismissed his appeal against conviction and sentence but allowed him to apply for home detention and deferred sentence until the Parole Board decided the issue.

Asamoah, who was on bail pending the appeal, came under the spotlight in 2003 when his Australian wife, who contracted HIV, was awarded $727,437 in a negligence action against two Sydney doctors for not telling her of her husband's condition.

The pair have since separated and he has been refused a visitor's visa to return to Australia to see his daughter.

It is likely that Asamoah's residency application would have been rejected if he had declared his condition.

The courts were told that it cost $10,000 to $13,000 a year to treat him.

Asamoah's lawyer, Melanie Coxon, told the judge that her client ticked the "no" box because he was "in a life-or-death situation".

Justice Frater said Asamoah had "no apparent defence" and the six-month tern was "somewhat generous".

In granting leave to apply to the parole board, she said there was no evidence that Asamoah, who was in a stable relation and stable employment, was a risk others.

The Immigration Service is seeking to revoke his residency.

Ms Coxon said if Asamoah's residents were revoked, he could appeal to the Deportation Review Tribunal.

Judge Opens Door To Us


Mr S is looking forward to meeting his American in-laws after an Auckland District Court judge quashed a cannabis conviction he collected as a teenager 12 years ago.

United States immigration authorities refused entry to the 30-year-old Auckland computer Contractor — whose wife is an American citizen — because he had two convictions or possessing cannabis in 1985 as n 18-year-old labourer.

However, his lawyers, Christopher Harder and Melanie Coxon, successfully sought a discharge without conviction on the second charge after having the case reheard yesterday before Judge Arthur Tompkins.

Mr. Harder told the judge the conviction had "disastrous consequences" for Mr S, who at the time had been unaware of the ramifications of pleading guilty.

Mr S had not met his wife's elderly parents, who could not afford to come to New Zealand.

Under the United States Immigration and Nationality Act, the authorities could waive one minor cannabis conviction, but not two.

There was no police opposition to the application for a rehearing, but the court was told that police records relating to the charge were destroyed after seven years.

Mr S told the judge that a very small quantity of cannabis was found in the pocket of a jacket, he was wearing when the Auckland drug squad raided his shared flat in November 1985.

He had planned to defend the charge but decided it was not worth the cost.

Outside the court, an elated Mr S said people convicted on minor drug charges faced harsher penalties than the gravity of the offence warranted, particularly in immigration matters.

His wife said she had not realised the significance of her husband's convictions.

"My husband told me about his record and said 'Do you think that will be a problem?'

"I said, 'Oh, I don't think so, that would be ridiculous'."

They learned differently a week before Mr S was due to join his wife in the United States.

Thief Avoids Jail Time

A FORMER high-flying executive at Tower Insurance has escaped jail despite the "bizarre" theft of more than $100,000 which was "salted away" and not spent.

The 41-year-old employee was sentenced to 300 hours' community service for the theft of $111,634.26 and granted continued name suppression so their lawyer could get a full psychiatric report. The Sunday Star-Times was refused access to the file due to the suppression, which may be lifted later this month.

The decision of Auckland District Court Judge Roderick Joyce, QC, to allow continued name suppression raised eyebrows with police, the prosecutor and the defendant's former employer. Tower's chief executive Rob Flannagan said it was "an understatement" to say he was surprised. The defendant's lawyer had detailed a troubled private life and previously blemish-free employment history.

Flannagan said the judge "seemed to believe everything [that was] said".

The employee hadn't spent the money, due to a dissociative state which 'separated' them from the crime.

Details of the offending were last week revealed in court during sentencing, before an audience of upset former colleagues. The defendant stared at the back wall through the hearing.

In his sentencing statement, Joyce revealed the employee had salted away the money by faking invoices but had not spent it. That "extraordinary state of affairs" was due to a "dissociative" state, whereby the defendant had "separated" from the crime. The employee gained no benefit from the fraud and paid the money back when caught.

Joyce said the defendant was "intelligent and capable", and must have been aware they would be caught.

The employee was the sole breadwinner for an invalid partner and son and had been under intense pressure, taking an overdose of prescription drugs. Joyce said he wanted a full psychiatric report before revealing the defendant's name. Tower discovered the theft through an audit. Flannagan said staff wanted to attend the sentencing "for closure".

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