One of the Waiouru medal thieves, who earned a $100,000 reward by returning the medals he stole, can keep his ill-gotten gains, the country's highest court has ruled.
The Supreme Court said James Kapa, who is serving 13 years for his crime, does not have to return the money because the donors cannot be considered "victims".
On December 2, 2007, Kapa and Ronald van Wakeren burgled the National Army Museum at Waiouru and stole 96 gallantry medals, including nine Victoria Crosses.
On December 17, police offered a reward - funded by British peer Michael Ashcroft and Nelson businessman Tom Sturgess - for evidence leading to the identity and conviction of the thieves or the recovery of the medals.
In January 2008, lawyer Christopher Comeskey offered police a deal in which the medals were returned for the reward. He did not reveal his clients.
The medals were returned in February 2008 and the two thieves received $100,000 each. When they were arrested, van Wakeren returned his share, but Kapa did not.
The Crown has tried to claim back the money as reparation for Lord Ashcroft and Mr Sturgess. But the Supreme Court has ruled "only victims can be the recipients of a sentence of reparation".
"The offender has not 'caused' that loss. The offender has merely, by his or her offending, set up the occasion for the making of the reward to happen," the judgment says.
"Mr Kapa 'earned', as a result of his offending, $100,000. The fact he got the reward is irrelevant to the question of whether the reward donors suffered a loss - which is what the sentence of reparation is all about."
Though Kapa won this court battle, he may yet be stripped of his reward money.
The Supreme Court judgment says police could still seek the fee under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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