Lockdown conviction quashed after error

A man who flouted Covid-19 lockdown rules in the southern region has had his conviction quashed after a fundamental error was made by a duty solicitor and judge. 

Fraser Wright Maddigan pleaded guilty when he appeared in the Invercargill District Court before Judge Bernadette Farnan on April 2 last year to breaching the Civil Defence Emergency Act 2002.

He was charged after being found in his car in Queenstown on March 30 and Te Anau on March 31 and April 1.

On the first two occasions,  police had given Maddigan educational direction to return to his home in Christchurch.

Madigan entered his guilty plea after he had been denied bail and was to be remanded in custody. He was fined $1000 and ordered to pay court costs..

At a submission hearing, Maddigan told the court he was driving home to Christchurch on the Milford Rd, travelling towards Te Anau at the time he was arrested .

In his written submission he said he believed the prosecutor chose to "hide this crucial evidence to convince the judge I was equally as bad as the mosque shooter".

In a High Court decision released today,  Justice Gerald Nation said the judge did not deny Maddigan bail to pressure or induce him to plead guilty.

However, a "fundamental error" was made by the judge and duty solicitor.

"In Mr Maddigan’s presence, the duty solicitor advised the Judge that Mr Maddigan was bailable as of right but could nevertheless be remanded in custody if there was just cause for his continued detention."

"Judge Farnan dealt with Maddigan on that basis."

However, he was bailable as of right, Justice Nation said, and could have had a bail condition imposed to ensure he complied with police directions to return to Christchurch.

He believed that if had Maddigan had been granted bail, he would not have pleaded guilty.

"He would have wanted to defend the charge, albeit on a basis that was not likely to succeed."

Justice Nation said he had to decide whether there would be a miscarriage of justice if Mr Maddigan were to remain convicted and sentenced after being wrongly remanded in custody when it was likely he had, and still had, no defence to the charge.

"By a narrow margin, I have decided there would be such a miscarriage."

Justice Nation quashed the conviction. 

Maddigan still faces the charge.

He was remanded on bail to appear in the Christchurch District Court on May 27.

  - karen.pasco@odt.co.nz

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