Assault Charge Dismissed Against Coromandel 1080 Activist
In the Thames District Court yesterday, Judge Greg Hollister-Jones dismissed a charge of common assault brought by the New Zealand Police against Graeme Sturgeon of Coromandel.
The unprofessional and confrontational methods used by the DoC security guard, in opening Sturgeon's car door forcibly, with a surprise move, without identifying himself, appeared to tip the balance in the judge's mind to decide that Sturgeon's actions from the moment the door was opened were made in self-defence.
At dusk on 17th October, 2017, Sturgeon and two companions had been alerted to a clandestine 1080 poison loading operation in the Whitianga CBD and went to observe and take photographs.
Driving into the unlit public carpark, Sturgeon stopped his car when coming across trucks loaded with bags of 1080 baits at the back of the Liquor King building, adjacent to residences and supermarkets.
The Court established that Sturgeon was then dragged out of his car by a Department of Conservation guard and a scuffle ensued.
The security guard hired by the Department of Conservation did not have a current Certificate of Approval from the Security Licencing Authority and was untrained in 'crowd control'. He works as a spray contractor for the Waikato Regional Council.
Due to the lack of lighting in the bait-loading area, there were difficulties knowing exactly what happened, as two witnesses did not have full and complete views. Sturgeon had first put in a complaint of assault against the guard stating he had punched him in the nose and dragged him forcibly from his car, without identifying who he was. Then after a lengthy wait, the Police charged Sturgeon with common assault.
CCTV footage showed Sturgeon trying to close his car door to protect himself against his unknown attacker. The car door was wrenched open for a second time by the guard. The guard appeared to have a paranoid mind set believing that Sturgeon posed a threat and might have had a gun in his car.
In his evidence, the guard made a number
of statements that proved false under
Photos show Sturgeon with a bloody nose and ripped clothes.
Police and the security guard referred to “protestors” while the activists referred to themselves as “witnesses” whose intention was to observe and record the aerial drop of 1080.
The Department of Conservation had secretly stored 23,700kgs of 1080 poison baits in a warehouse in the Liquor King building from June 2017 through to October 17th when the baits were loaded in preparation for the drop over the Kaimamara Valley, which is the source of Whitianga's town water supply.
No warning signs or barriers were put in place to deter the public from entering the public carpark while the ecotoxic baits were being loaded. The smell of the volatile gases alerted local residents.
Official Information requests showed that DoC did not inform local authorities about this bulk storage, including the local fire chief. If there was a fire, toxic hydrogen fluoride gas would be released, and the town would have to be evacuated.
PoisonFreeCoromandel believes that PredatorFree2050 is an ideological mission which is becoming increasingly militarised.
Now who will hold the Department of Conservation to account for its many breaches of health and safety regulations and legal statutes?