Peter Verschaffelt drug charge dropped

A drugs charge which was dropped today ruined his life, high profile TV and radio journalist Peter Verschaffelt says.

A charge of being party to methamphetamine manufacture was stayed by Judge David Harvey in Auckland District Court, nearly four years after it was laid.

The judge said his reasons for the decision to stay proceedings would be given later.

His decision came after he heard submissions from Mr Verschaffelt's lawyer David Young, who told the court the police had failed to follow lines of inquiry, evidence had gone missing, there was insufficient disclosure of the case, and there had been too many delays.

Mr Verschaffelt, 61, arrested in 2006, was due to stand trial in Auckland District Court tomorrow. Judge Harvey also ordered a stay of proceedings on another charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

When he gave his ruling Mr Verschaffelt grabbed the rails around the dock in the court and shook with emotion.

"I am speechless. I am struggling to hold back tears," he said outside court.

Mr Verschaffelt, a former radio and television journalist and producer of the TV programme Made in New Zealand, said due to the charge he had been unable to get a job. That had been the equivalent of a $1200 a week fine for four years.

He said the charges had no foundation and the impact on his life had been ruinous.

He had been a beneficiary for nearly four years and had applied for more than 200 jobs in the media but no one wanted to employ him while he faced charges.

"The impact has been horrendous," he said.

"I am pleased to be walking free of charges I have always said I was not guilty of. People cannot imagine what it is like to be condemned.

"Too many people jump to the conclusion of guilt and the concept that one is innocent until proven guilty in this country is just a misnomer."

He said he had coped by falling back on his Christian beliefs.

Last year he was ordered to pay costs of $11,200 to the Sunday Star Times and Housing New Zealand.

He had sought damages from the newspaper over articles written about him and from Housing NZ, where he worked when he was charged.

The case was struck out last year in the High Court at Auckland.