Judge issues warrant for evasive skipper

Would trawlerman David Atkinson please come in? Your time is up.

In fact, Christchurch District Court Judge Michael Crosbie is so convinced that your time is up, that he has issued a warrant for your arrest.

That means the courts and the police would be keen to hear from you, and so would Maritime New Zealand which is bringing charges against you.

And so would your lawyer, Michael Starling.

Atkinson is facing charges following the grounding of a fishing trawler in Christchurch two years ago.

Everyone linked to his case, which was called yesterday, accepted that Atkinson would be unlikely to attend his latest court date.

Mr Starling called the phone number he had for Atkinson, to tell him about the appearance, but it was disconnected.

He had sent a courier letter, requiring a signature, but that was returned unopened.

The next option would be to hire a private investigator to try to find the trawler skipper.

The most likely theory is that he has been offshore for months at a time, working on fishing boats.

Judge Crosbie noted that there had been no contact with Atkinson since September and decided that was an extraordinary length of time for a matter such as this to go unattended.

He issued the arrest warrant which Maritime New Zealand was asking for.

MNZ is prosecuting Atkinson over the grounding of the 13m Debbie Jane fishing trawler in December 2019.

It alleges he was the skipper when the vessel ran aground off Waimairi Beach. News reports at the time said that Atkinson and two crew members were rescued and were treated in hospital for hypothermia.

Maritime NZ has charged him with operating a ship and causing danger and risk, as well as exposing individuals to risk of harm.

Mr Starling was certainly hoping that the Open Justice project coverage would lead to his client getting back in touch.

By David Clarkson

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