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Bail for repeat offender

A man with a history of drug dealing on bail has been granted bail again after denying charges of possessing methamphetamine and cannabis for supply, telling Judge Barbara Morris he’s had a “real wake-up call”.

Christopher Noel Stephens, a 38-year-old forestry worker from Masterton, appeared for a bail application in Masterton District Court yesterday, having denied charges of possessing drugs for supply, illegally possessing ammunition, and stealing electricity.

The most serious charge of supplying methamphetamine carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Police searched Stephens’ Masterton house on April 11 of this year; when they arrived, he allegedly clenched his fists, said to his partner that he was going to jail, and ran through the house before being pepper sprayed.

Police found a small amount of methamphetamine on Stephens, while in the house they found 100 cannabis seedlings, 100 mature plants, and a 10-litre bucket filled with 500g of cannabis buds.

Inside a hot water cupboard in the kitchen, police found a bag containing $600 and 13g of methamphetamine.

Small ziplock bags, glass meth pipes, digital scales, and shotgun rounds were also found in the lounge.

The power meter had also been tampered with to illegally divert electricity.

Police prosecutor Seargent Miranda Barton said police opposed the bail application.

Barton noted that Stephens had previously been convicted of supplying methamphetamine in 2014, 2019, and 2022.

She also said he had an extensive history of reoffending while on bail, including supplying methamphetamine while on bail for cultivating cannabis in 2019, possessing methamphetamine while on bail for supplying it in 2020, and supplying cannabis while on bail for burglary in 2013.

Lawyer Lucie Scott said, despite his history, her client had not offended in the past two years despite being on electronically monitored bail that whole time.

Stephens has denied the charges of possessing drugs for supply, and Scott
said she challenged the legality of the police search – the matter will go to trial next year.

Scott said her client did not accept that it was his property, noting two other people lived there and that the day after Stephens was arrested, other people swept through the house to clear evidence.

Scott said her client should be granted bail to his father’s house and noted that his mother is terminally ill and is in end-of-life care.

She said it would be unjust for him to be remanded in custody for a year before trial when he had denied the charges.

Judge Morris said public safety was more important than the presumption of innocence and time until trial.

She said Stephens’ history of drug dealing on bail was “not a comforting set of circumstances”.

She noted that while on electronically monitored bail, he had let his bracelet run out of battery several times, once for over 10 hours.

“However, Mr Stephens says he has had a ‘large wake-up call’ and now sees what is important to him. He sees it as an opportunity to help his father, who had never lived in his house alone.

“He has an appalling history of offending while on bail, but he has not offended in these last two years on electronically monitored bail,” she said.

“If he does what he has done in the past and allows his tracker to go flat, there’s no question Mr Stephens will go to jail.”

Stephens was granted electronically monitored bail to his father’s house until trial, with the condition that he can be drug tested at any time and returned immediately to custody if he is found with any weapons, drugs, or paraphernalia.

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