Accused not off hook legally

Last updated 11:18 23/01/2013

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A High Court judge has turned down an application to throw out charges against a man accused of bashing 23 seals to death near Kaikoura in 2010, but the charges could still be dismissed.

Jemaal Peter Roy Large, 37, of Wairau Valley, is charged with wilfully ill-treating the 23 seals by clubbing them to death with a galvanised steel pipe at Ohau Pt on November 26, 2010.

In August, Blenheim District Court judge Tony Zohrab turned down an appeal by Large to have the charges against him thrown out on the grounds that he was legally hunting the seals. Large appealed to the High Court for a judicial review of the judge's decision, applying again to have the charges dismissed.

However, in a decision obtained by the Marlborough Express last week, Justice Joseph Williams dismissed the application, saying he could not decide if Large was hunting or not and a judge would have to hear the Crown's case to decide whether the charge was valid.

In the decision made last month, Justice Williams said according to the law, hunting included the pursuit of the hunted animal and it was not clear if Large's actions could be described as a pursuit "requiring skills ordinarily associated with hunting".

It was also not clear whether Large was in any danger from the adult seals while he was moving among them or whether they were "essentially immobile and docile presenting no danger to him at all", he said. "The former could well qualify as hunting. The latter would not, in my view."

The Crown had successfully argued in the Blenheim District Court that there was an exception in the law meaning Large's actions could not be deemed hunting. Large's lawyer, David Clark, said the High Court decision was a good one for Large, because it cleared up what the law meant.

"It [the High Court] did not dismiss the charge, but that's not unexpected because the High Court does not deal with the factual matters. It was dealing with the law, and how the law is now interpreted is to be decided by the district court."

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- Kaikoura Star

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