Fake pilot's appeal bid never gets off ground

Last updated 05:00 07/02/2014
Brian Hunter
ON TRIAL: Brian Hunter.

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A recidivist conman's attempt to appeal against his sentence for pretending to be a pilot has been rejected after a judge said it wasn't tough enough.

Lawyer Philip Jensen told Justice Stephen Kos in the High Court at Napier that Brian Hunter's sentence of 300 hours' community work was "manifestly excessive".

Hunter, who has more than 160 dishonesty convictions and a previous conviction for impersonating a flight instructor, was sentenced in the Napier District Court last month after pleading guilty to flying a plane without a licence.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

In September 2012 Hunter, 54, contacted a man selling a plane. Introducing himself as Brian Shaw, he said he had significant flying experience in various types of aircraft, and took control of the plane for parts of a test flight, including a couple of landings and take-offs.

Justice Kos said the sentence of 300 hours was the equivalent only of about eight weeks' work, "or one-sixth of the maximum sentence . . . if we assume that fulltime employment is, as some people think, as bad as being in prison".

Deducting the hours spent asleep, which Justice Kos said might be much the same in prison or not, it was closer to the equivalent of six weeks.

"Why is that so bad? . . . It could be seen as manifestly deficient," Justice Kos said.

Mr Jensen argued that other sentences for the same conviction were much lower, and that public safety had not been at risk in Hunter's case.

Hunter had been deceitful but had not presented a risk to safety, he said.

But Justice Kos disagreed and said it was a "disgraceful public safety offence" that Hunter committed knowingly.

There were good reasons for Parliament requiring pilots to hold licences, including the safety training, he said.

Justice Kos noted that Hunter's sentence was out of keeping with others for flying without a licence and said he would indicate in his written decision that a sentence of about 100 hours' community work was not sufficient on a charge with a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Previous sentencing practices did not relate to the intention of Parliament, he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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