McVitty may call 50 witnesses

Up to 50 "important people" could be called to court to help prominent former farmer Robert Julian McVitty defend a charge of theft.

McVitty, 62, appeared in the Feilding District Court yesterday on the charge.

He is accused of stealing a trailer worth $300 from BNZ on June 1. The bank had taken over his farm and held securities over some property.

Two of McVitty's companies, McVitty Properties and Patoka Dairies, were put into receivership about two years ago, owing more than $73 million to the bank.

A further charge of theft of farm items, also from BNZ, was dropped.

McVitty maintained his not-guilty plea on the trailer charge and asked why the value of the trailer had been dropped from $1500 to $300.

"It seemed to me that the value was reduced to deny me a trial by jury," McVitty said.

Instead, the matter will be heard before a judge in February.

McVitty said he would call up to 50 witnesses in what should be a civil, rather than criminal matter.

"It's a complex case," he said.

"A considerable number of important people are involved."

Upon hearing that, Judge Grant Fraser said he would ensure the court appointed a lawyer to assist McVitty, who has not got legal aid and yesterday represented himself.

Manawatu Standard