Surprise over job secrecy

Jeremy Buis
Jeremy Buis

A public servant who subjected a Dunedin businessman to "a living hell'' for two and a-half years has finally been named - but his occupation remains under wraps.

Jeremy Fraser Buis (39), appearing in the Dunedin District Court yesterday, was sentenced to 200 hours' community work and ordered to pay the victim $15,000 after being found guilty of criminal harassment, threatening to do grievous bodily harm and intentional damage, following a week-long, judge-alone trial last month.

The victim - Danny Pryde - voluntarily gave up his own name suppression yesterday and said he was "extremely surprised'' Buis' job was kept secret.

"I think that's quite important for the public to know ... his profession and I don't know why they'd hold that back,'' he said.

Judge Paul Kellar gave no reasons for his decision, which was made after counsel Anne Stevens said publication of the job would cast aspersions on Buis' colleagues.

Danny Pryde
Danny Pryde

University of Otago dean of law Prof Mark Henaghan said the situation was unusual and almost futile.

"Once the name is released, people can find out what he does,'' he said.

Buis himself was not keen to discuss the case yesterday.

Police said he was released from court after sentencing through an "alternative exit'', rather than the public doors, to avoid conflict with the victim's family.

"Avoidance of the media was not a consideration,'' the spokesman said.

Mr Pryde, owner of Pryde Engineering, said he wanted to lift the lid on the ordeal which had permeated almost every area of his life.

"I've got a business to run and it's extremely embarrassing trying to explain this to customers,'' he said. "I'm happy for them to read about it and sympathise if they feel the need to.''

Mr Pryde believed the sentence was light and described the $15,000 emotional-harm payment, which the court heard Buis had borrowed, as "dirty money''.

"I'd almost be prepared to give that away to charity. He tried to destroy my business and my marriage. [Money] doesn't fix those things,'' he said.

The campaign of stalking was sparked by an incident on June 14, 2012, when Buis parked his car in such a way that it blocked the rear driveway to Pryde Engineering, in Ward St.

Mr Pryde called the Dunedin City Council, whose parking officers promptly ticketed the vehicle, which led to a confrontation between the men.

Though their contact was fleeting, Buis spent the next 30 months targeting the man.

"The harassment hit its mark,'' the judge said.

It began with anonymous text messages and progressed to the defendant leaving the victim's contact details at a gay hangout. Later, he set up a fake homosexual internet-dating profile using Mr Pryde's photo from his work website.

From 2014, Judge Kellar said, the stalking took a different turn.

"It was considerably more menacing,'' he said.

Buis told Mr Pryde to "get your affairs in order'' and advised him to "buy something bullet-proof''.

Mr Pryde's victim impact statement described the lengthy ordeal as "a living hell''.

Both he and the judge were at a loss to explain why Buis had undertaken the campaign.

"I've been staggered at the extent of the planning and degree of sophistication in it,'' Judge Kellar said.

"This is inexplicable behaviour. You held a responsible position, had a completely clean record ... I can assume you were otherwise a person of good character and standing in the community. You've let yourself and your family down very badly through this offending that really got out of control.''

The judge described the situation as an "absolute tragedy'' for both the victim's and defendant's families.

It is understood Buis has been on paid leave since charges were laid and is still employed, although the employer refused to comment yesterday because of the suppression order.

The Otago Daily Times intends to challenge that order.

The court heard how Buis would probably complete his community work at Age Concern.

Mrs Stevens said her client would like the opportunity to give something back.

"He would sit with them, and do chores and whatever is required,'' she said.

Age Concern board member Robert Aitken said: "Our understanding is regardless of his convictions, he's a man of good character.'' But he confirmed Buis would be doing maintenance and other tasks rather than working directly with the elderly.

Who is Jeremy Buis?
  • Dunedin father of two, married to a child-care worker
  • Began his profession in 2006 (all other details of his job are suppressed)
  • Been on paid leave since charges were laid, it is understood
  • Has his own hobby business fixing and shaping surfboards