Police told to put a value on 'culturally important' carving

The carving allegedly stolen from the Kaiapoi Pā. Photo: Supplied
The carving allegedly stolen from the Kaiapoi Pā. Photo: Supplied
The justice system is forcing the police to put a price on something they regard as priceless.

They will have to come up with a value for a Māori carving allegedly stolen from the Kaiapoi Pā and battlefield memorial in North Canterbury.

They have charged Jeffrey Vivian White-Parsons, 40, from Leithfield, with stealing the carving in a burglary of the pā site on Preeces Rd in late May.

He was charged after the Waimakariri Tactical Crime Unit executed a search warrant in Leithfield Beach on 1 June.

The police said various stolen pieces of property, including the carved monument, were found. Kaiapoi Pā is an important site in local and tribal history and the monument dates back to the late 1800s.

White-Parsons appeared in court on 2 June and was remanded in custody for a further appearance by video-link, on charges of burglary and receiving stolen property.

When he appeared again, he was also charged with receiving a large water tank valued at $3000 from unknown persons.

Christchurch District Court Judge Tony Couch told defence counsel Nadine Girgis that White-Parsons needed to enter pleas to the original three charges, so she announced he would plead not guilty and elect trial by judge alone. He was remanded without plea on the latest charge.

But Judge Couch also told the police that the charge relating to the carving referred to it having "an unknown value" - and that is not allowed under the justice system.

Charges have to have a value on items, but at their most vague, they must refer to an item being either under or over $1000 because that changes the charge and the penalty that can be imposed.

Prosecutor Sergeant Kathy Pomfrett said police regarded the carving - which had cultural significance - as being "priceless".

However, she said they were seeking an opinion about what its value could be, and would seek to add the figure to the charge at the next appearance.

White-Parsons is due to appear for an application for release on electronically monitored bail on 29 June, and a Crown case review on the other charges on 26 July. He remains in custody in the meantime.

-By David Clarkson
Open Justice multimedia journalist

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