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Discharged without conviction for illegal hunting

A man charged with illegal hunting on the exclusive Wharekauhau Country Estate has been discharged without conviction despite the judge’s concerns that a high-powered firearm had been used on private land.

Martin O’Dea appeared in Masterton District Court for sentencing yesterday after police found him and another man trespassing on the estate.

The 3000-acre estate is comprised of luxury accommodation that offers guests ‘the New Zealand farm experience’ in a rural setting.

The two men had shot and killed three wild deer that had wandered onto the private land.

O’Dea pleaded guilty to the charges and maintained that, at the time of the offending, he was unaware that his co-offender was using an unlicensed high-powered firearm.

Judge Morris said unlawful shooting is a serious issue for rural communities, and the safety risks are not to be underestimated, especially when there is accommodation nearby.

“There is a significant safety concern if someone is operating a high-powered weapon without others having knowledge of it.”

Defence lawyer Andra Mobberley argued that a conviction would greatly impact O’Dea’s employment, which often involves working at schools. He aspires to start a fishing and hunting business, but a conviction would limit those prospects.

Mobberley said the defendant’s role was to help transport the deer carcasses and he was not engaged in the killing of the animals, so a lesser sentence was appropriate.

O’Dea was prepared to work in the community or donate $300 to a community organisation. Because his son is autistic, his preference was for his reparation to involve a charity.

Judge Barbara Morris took this into account when deciding a suitable punishment. She credited O’Dea with pleading guilty and accepted that $300 restitution was suitable.

Noting the impact of a conviction on O’Dea’s future business plans – “All the potential customers of yours will see is a conviction for unlawful hunting” – she discharged him without conviction.

A Wharekauhau Estate spokesperson said she had no knowledge of the incident when approached by the Times-Age for comment.

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