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‘Careless but not reckless’

A man accused of knowingly buying a stolen van to live in has walked free, and had all charges dropped.
Owen Martin Crawford was found not guilty of receiving property worth over $1000 in Masterton District Court last week. The charges related to Crawford’s purchase of a white Mazda van stolen from Wellington’s south coast late last year.
Crawford bought the van, which had incorrect licence plates, broken locks, and no registration or warrant of fitness, for $800 cash in Masterton.
Police prosecutors said it was manifestly obvious that the vehicle had been stolen, and that Crawford was reckless about where the van’s provenance.
The defence maintained Crawford had bought the van in good faith and had taken the seller at his word.
The estimated value of the van proved contentious in the judge-alone trial, with the charging documents stating it was worth $2000, while an insurance valuation put the price at $8000.
Taking the stand in Masterton District Court, Masterton Constable Bobina Loader said she and a colleague came across the van on Queen St in February.
“My colleague queried the vehicle, noting the discrepancies with the vehicle and license plate. We activated the red and blue flashing lights.”
Loader said upon inspection the officers found all the locks in the van were broken, and a check confirmed the vehicle was stolen.
Crawford was arrested and taken to the station for questioning.
In interview footage played in court, Crawford said he had bought the van months ago for $800 and had nothing to hide.
“I just bought it like that at the time. It’s more ****ing trouble than it’s worth, costing me money and now I’m in the police station.
“I only bought it to go to work and to sleep in.”
He said he had recently started a new job picking onions.
Loader said that after his police interview, Crawford was allowed to return in “good faith” to Henley Lake.
“He was homeless and had nowhere to stay if police impounded his vehicle.”
She said two weeks later, however, Crawford had disappeared and was not seen again until June.
In cross-examination, defence lawyer Fionnaula Kelly said Crawford was cooperative, giving police the name of the person he bought the van from and was upfront about his financial situation.
“He was candid that he didn’t have the money to get it registered and it was unwarranted.
In her summary, Judge Barbara Morris said the facts of the case were simple, but the question remained whether Crawford was aware that there was a risk the van was stolen goods.
She said it was unusual that Crawford had supplied police with the name of the seller.
“Usually it’s ‘I can’t remember the name of the person,’ especially the surname.”
Morris said as far as the law was concerned, the burden of proof was on the prosecution.
“It is not enough that I think it more probable than not, that Mr Crawford was aware of the real and appreciable risk at the time.”
She said there was no doubt that Crawford was careless, but she said the prosecution had not proven he was reckless.

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