A farmer who admitted, in the Queenstown District Court
yesterday, intentionally damaging a toilet cubicle after an
incident at the Pig'n Whistle in Queenstown while
participating in a stag party in January, narrowly escaped
being given a prison sentence by Judge Michael Turner.
William Huntly Stuart Jones (28), of Shannon, near
Middlemarch, had initially been charged with arson after the
incident, which occurred on January 2.
At his sentencing yesterday, defence counsel Nic Soper -
seeking a conviction and discharge for his client - said
Jones appeared before the court ''chastened, thoroughly
embarrassed and genuinely remorseful''.
Mr Soper said Jones' behaviour was ''totally out of
character'' and it was attributed to the ''eroding and
corrosive influence of alcohol on that day''.
Jones was attending an associate's stag party and, after an
''organised'' day of drinking, arrived at the Pig'n Whistle
''Mr Jones was inadvertently taken advantage of by other
members of his group in that his intoxicated condition was
... seen as being quite amusing or humorous to them.
''He was provided with a lighter and a nurse's uniform ...
Why ... is totally unknown.
''From that point on he has nothing but the vaguest of
recollections of what he did.''
The police summary said Jones took the lighter and the
nurse's uniform and approached a group of unknown patrons at
the bar, set the uniform on fire and then ''threw the burning
item'' on to the table they were sitting at.
The uniform ''smouldered''.
Jones then went into the female toilets, where he set fire to
a large toilet roll, housed in a plastic covering, and left
Judge Turner said shortly after that the fire was detected by
patrons and staff, the bar was evacuated and by the time the
Fire Service arrived the fire had been put out.
However, when Jones was interviewed by police, he ''had very
little idea where he was or what he was being spoken to
about'', Mr Soper said.
The following day, Jones ''managed to piece together'', with
the assistance of other members of the group, what had
He immediately contacted the owner of the Pig'n Whistle to
apologise and ''asked what he needed to do''.
Jones also visited the Queenstown Volunteer Fire Station and
apologised for the inconvenience and made a donation at the
Fire Service's suggestion.
Mr Soper said all his client could say was, ''I have never
been that drunk as I was on that particular day. I don't know
what happened. I don't know how I came to be in possession of
a cigarette lighter and a nurse's uniform. I'm absolutely
horrified at what I've done.''
Judge Turner said the incident was not ''an accident'' and
believed the culpability was at the ''top end of the scale''.
''It's that culpability that takes it from a conviction and
discharge to something much more than that.
''What you did could well have ended in tragedy. It was good
fortune that it didn't, certainly not good management.''
Judge Turner told Jones his initial thought was to send him
to prison, with leave to apply for home detention.
However, after hearing from Mr Soper and reviewing the case,
he decided to ''stop short of that''.
Jones was convicted and sentenced to 200 hours' community
work, fined $2000 and ordered to pay $132.89 court costs.