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New Police Warning Policy is Needed - NORML

'Four Men and a Bong' Case Shows Why New Police Warning Policy is Needed

Waiheke Island Charges Dismissed But Costs Taxpayers $40,000; Why Do Police Bother?

Charges against four men were dismissed last week in the Auckland District Court in a trial that has lasted nearly one year and cost the taxpayer approximately $40,000.

The case has taken a total of 11 months; required 5 court appearances, 3 legal aid lawyers, 1 language interpreter, and 2 police witnesses travelling to and from Waiheke Island, all at an estimated cost of $40,000 to the taxpayer.

The four men, dubbed the 'Waiheke Four' by supporters, were arrested on New Years Eve last year sitting at public picnic table on a beach on Waiheke Island. On the table and nearby, Police found a bong and 9 grams of cannabis (approx. 18 joints).

"There was no evidence linking any of the men to the cannabis and bong, yet all four were arrested, charged and prosecuted in court," said NORML president Stephen McIntyre.

"The case, which has been estimated by lawyers as costing approximately $40,000, was dismissed by Judge Kiernan this week due to lack of evidence from the Prosecution."

"A joint costs about $10 to buy, but this trial brought by the Police has cost taxpayers more than $2000 per joint, with no convictions to show for it!"

"This just goes to show the new Police policy of not prosecuting minor offences - such as possession of a bong or 9 grams of cannabis - is sorely needed."

"However it doesn't go far enough. If the 'Waiheke Four' had been warned, they would be prosecuted twice if they were caught again. And the courts may treat them more harshly, knowing they had used up their warning."

"Additionally, for a warning to be issued the offenders must be remorseful for their offending," Mr McIntyre said. "These men however didn't see themselves as criminals and felt they had nothing to be sorry about."

"This new 'two strikes and you're out' system avoids the central issue that cannabis should not be illegal to begin with and New Zealand's 400,000 cannabis smokers should not have to be dealt with by the police simply for using their drug of choice," he concluded.

- ends -

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