A judge has found a former CAA manager not guilty of having tried to pervert the course of justice when he sent an email that was subsequently read to a coroners court.
Peter James Kirker, 53, maintained he thought the email would be anonymous.
Judge Andrew Becroft said he thought Kirker's actions had been hamfisted and misguided but not criminal.
The recipient of the email - the brother of a helicopter instructor who died in a midair collision in 2008 - saw the name Frank Sharp used to set up the email account.
Kirker said the name Frank Sharp just came off the top of his head but he knew someone of that name was an aviation expert currently working at Massey University.
The email Kirker sent to the dead man's brother came to be attributed to Mr Sharp and led to Kirker, then safety investigations manager for the Civil Aviation Authority being charged with two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice and one of causing a forged document to be used as if it was genuine.
In Wellington District Court today Judge Andrew Becroft found Kirker not guilty of all three charges.
The judge said he had doubt that Kirker had intended the email should be used as if it was an email from Mr Sharp, or that he intended the email itself to be produced to the coroner's court.
The Crown said Kirker must have known the Sharp name would be seen by the recipient and when he heard police were investigating it as a forgery he changed the name of the email account to "a b".
Judge Becroft said he could not safely infer that changing the email name was an intention to deflect or hinder the police inquiry, especially when no emails were deleted or other changes made.
The defence said Kirker believed the Sharp name would not be seen and the email address did not include the name. He was trying to raise issues he thought were not going to be addressed at the inquest into the deaths of the three men killed at Paraparaumu when a helicopter and Cessna aircraft collided.
Kirker told police he intended his email could be used to form questions or seek information in the course of the inquest. But it came too late for the parents of helicopter instructor David Fielding to do more than make an internet search about Frank Sharp. David Fielding's mother Jan Fielding was allowed to read the email to the inquest and attributed it without comment to Mr Sharp.
Judge Becroft said without any criticism of Mrs Fielding, it was her actions that led to Kirker being charged.
The District Court was told that Kirker had been preparing a report for the coroner but he feared that because of the CAA and Transport Accident Investigation Commission official stances that the inquest would be a whitewash.
Ironically, as a result of the fake-email investigation, the inquest was resumed in February this year and Kirker was called to give evidence.
The Fielding family supported Kirker at his trial this week.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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