Concerns over visa issues when travelling abroad helped see two keen hunters found guilty of poaching discharged without conviction in the Masterton District Court on Thursday.
Masterton farmer and hunting tour guide Shane Gray Dougan, 67, and Carterton man Donald Craig Hansen, 57, were also each ordered to pay $1000 in emotional harm reparations to the landowner.
The offending occurred on a property south of the Kaimanawa Range owned by Auckland-based Richard Hall, during the roar last year, the deer breeding season when male deer become more vocal.
Dougan and Hansen had been hunting on neighbouring properties when they crossed a river onto Hall’s block, which he has owned for four years and uses for recreational purposes.
They shot two sika deer of cull grade, not trophy quality, before being spotted by a group being helicoptered in to hunt on the same land where they were currently trespassing.
Judge Barbara Morris said it was “reckless” of the pair to continue onto land they did not have permission to be on.
She said the dominant factors of the case were the fee simple title which meant farmers should be entitled to hunt their own land without interference from poachers, and issues of public safety relating to firearms.
It’s important that hunters identify their target before shooting and there was an increased risk when there were unknown people, she said.
“What makes it more serious is that they did shoot two deer.”
She said Dougan’s profession as a hunting guide and a previous conviction for a minor breach of the Wild Animal Control Act more than 20 years ago made him especially culpable.
Judge Morris acknowledged that both men had pleaded guilty and were remorseful of their actions.
Dougan told police he had made a mistake, and Hansen said he was “old fashioned, when you see a deer you take a shot”.
Their attendance was excused while they are travelling overseas.
Defence lawyer Ian Hard argued for them to be discharged without conviction as there was concern a conviction of this nature would make it difficult for them to travel as part of Dougan’s water buffalo hunting operations in New Caledonia, Australia and the United States.
“[Dougan] is absolutely clear that if this conviction is passed, he will lose his career,” Hard said.
There was also some concern that a conviction might impact firearms license applications, both here and abroad.
However, police prosecutor Justin Kelly argued such consequences were only “speculative” and there was no guarantee they wouldn’t be granted licenses or visas because of the conviction.
“They need to ensure if they are carrying firearms into people’s property, they have permission.”
Judge Morris agreed with Hard, saying there was a “real and impressionable risk” it would impact them.
She acknowledged it was an important issue for the region and the potential for poachers was great.
Landowner Hall was somewhat disappointed with the outcome though he accepted the court’s decision.
“As a gun owner you have particular responsibilities, especially given the Christchurch massacre and recent gun law changes.
“[Their actions] don’t set a very good example,” he said.
Hall has since increased security measures around the property where the offending occurred.
In March three Wairarapa men were sentenced for poaching a $11,500 trophy stag and ordered to each pay $2000 in reparations.
This was the only hunting or poaching related case which was resolved in the Masterton District Court in the past three years.
Though poaching carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment or a $100,000 fine it is often difficult to prove.