Bid to get dope-growing gear back fails

ANDREW BEACH
Last updated 10:16 07/08/2014

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A man whose marijuana-growing equipment was seized under what turned out to be an illegal search warrant has lost a bid to get it returned.

Court documents say that when police raided Glenn Collis's Palmerston North property, they found a tent inside a locked room inside a shed.

Inside the tent were eight cannabis plants, being grown hydroponically.

They also found a large number of items associated with the hydroponic cultivation of cannabis, including electric fans, heat pump shields, an extractor fan system, ducting, transformers, electrical multi-boards and timers.

After he was charged Collis challenged the admissibility of the evidence obtained as a result of the search warrant.

A District Court judge ruled the evidence was unlawfully obtained and ruled it inadmissible.

Because there was no other evidence to prove the charge, Collis was discharged on the count of cultivating cannabis.

Collis then asked the police to return his possessions, except for the cannabis and cannabis plant material.

The police refused, and a District Court judge backed them up, saying he was satisfied the equipment was being used to cultivate cannabis.

He said the police could sell or destroy the property.

Undeterred, Collis took his case to the High Court, saying the property was his and a court had ruled the property was illegally obtained by the police.

In a just-published decision rejecting his appeal, the court said Collis claimed police obtained the property by the exercise of a search warrant that should never have been granted and the property, therefore, should never have been seized.

"He says that as the owner of the property, he should have the right to have his property returned to him," the judgment says.

But the High Court said the lower court had acted under the Summary Proceedings Act, which gave "wide discretion" around disposing of items seized under warrants.

"Ordinarily the court would recognise the rights of an owner of property and so return property to the rightful owner," it said.

"The exception is where the items are the product of illegality and ordering their return would be an affront to the public.

"While the items seized could be used by Mr Collis for lawful purposes, there was no evidence before the court from him that he intended to use them in that way.

The only evidence, therefore, is of their unlawful use - that is, in the cultivation of cannabis in the shed on Mr Collis' property.

"The [District Court] judge, therefore, was entitled to conclude that it was more likely than not that Mr Collis' purpose in having the equipment returned to him was for a further illegal purpose.

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"To return the property to him in such circumstances would clearly be contrary to public policy and would therefore be an affront to the public."

- Stuff

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