Long-serving court bailiff Grahame Cox has suffered a huge fall from grace after he was caught growing cannabis, the New Plymouth District Court heard yesterday.
Cox, 72, who is believed to have been suspended since his arrest, is now unlikely to continue in his job of 30-plus years.
Cox was yesterday convicted and fined a total of $1100 plus court costs after he admitted cultivating and possessing cannabis, and unlawfully possessing a .22 semi-automatic rifle.
The police conservatively estimated that the cannabis, if sold on the street, would have been worth $16,000.
He had no firearms licence for the the rifle, which was hidden but not secured in the living area.
Cox was arrested on April 14, along with Gary Ian Clynton Harker, 63, after police executed search warrants at their respective properties.
Cox initially told police who searched his remote bushclad property in Waitaanga Rd in the Ruapehu district, that someone else must have planted the small groups of plants they found dotted through the bush; and someone else must have broken in while he was away and left the newly harvested cannabis in the group of caravans he lived in during weekends.
During sentencing yesterday, Cox's lawyer, Turitea Bolstad, said the implications of the convictions for her client were "absolutely huge". Cox had a blemish-free record before his arrest.
At the age of 72 he had built a reputation for himself and the conviction was something he would have to deal and live with, Bolstad said.
He had no excuse except to say that the cannabis was for his personal use. He used it for ailments that included a back injury and arthritis, she said. "At 72 he has made the unwise decision to use it to help alleviate that pain."
The rifle was a "huge, huge oversight" when he took it to his property.
Judge Allan Roberts said he saw "no nefarious connection with the firearm". It was common to have firearms to kill pests in rural areas.
The judge noted that Cox had more plants than Harker but Cox had more dried material.
The judge took into account the guilty plea "and the toll the exercise has already taken on you".
He ordered the firearm and drug-related gear be destroyed.
Harker had already been convicted and fined $350 plus court costs at an earlier court appearance.
The Ministry of Justice said yesterday the employment process for Cox was continuing but declined to comment further.
"However, the ministry expects high standards of integrity from its staff, and holds staff to account," collections unit general manager Bryre Patchell said.
"As a good employer, the Ministry of Justice must consider each case on its merits. However, all breaches and alleged breaches of the law by employees are of concern to the ministry. This is particularly so in the case of serious crimes," Patchell said.
- Taranaki Daily News