Fake pilot footage to be destroyed

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 17/05/2012
ben boyce
GRAHAM COX / Fairfax NZ
ADMITTING ROLE: Ben Boyce leaving Manukau District Court yesterday.

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Footage of the fake pilot TV stunt which led to comedian Ben Boyce and five others being charged will now be destroyed.

The skit for the TV3 series WannaBen involved radio DJ Bryce Casey dressed in a pilot's uniform and trying to get past security at Auckland Airport last September, during the Rugby World Cup and close to the 9/11 terror attacks anniversary.

But he was spotted by security and he, Boyce - who masterminded the stunt - and the TV crew were arrested.

Boyce, Casey, TV producer Andrew Robinson, and crew Daniel Watkins, Craig O'Reilly and Gregory Clarke appeared at Manukau District Court yesterday charged with providing false information in an attempt to gain access to a secure area.

The hearing was a sentence indication and all changed their plea to guilty once the judge told them their likely punishment.

Because of complex legal rules around sentence indications, only part of the discussions can be reported.

Footage of the prank will also now never be seen, with Judge Gus Andree Wiltens ordering its destruction.

Clarke, O'Reilly and Watkins were discharged without conviction for their part in the failed comedy skit and fined $250 each to cover prosecution costs.

In his sentencing of the trio, Judge Wiltens said the stunt did not have sinister motives - but could have had significant consequences.

 "All eyes were on New Zealand from overseas to see if there was a security issue. If the escapade had been successful I'm sure it would not have been seen as a joke."

He accepted the trio, involved in lighting and sound, played a minor role in the stunt. They had not planned it.

He also took into account their "low level" of offending and the effect a conviction would have on their future.

"I am convinced these offences would make your professional careers stall."

The defence had argued Clarke, O'Reilly and Watkins regretted the stunt and a conviction would damage their careers.

All three had helped police with the investigation.

The fate of Boyce, Casey and Robinson cannot yet be reported.
The charge they face carries a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

At one of their initial appearances one of the men's lawyers sought diversion, but police declined that.

The stunt was widely condemned by the aviation industry.

Prime Minister John Key was drawn into the reaction, saying the stunt was "irresponsible from a bunch of clowns that should know better".

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In a statement issued in September by TV3's owner MediaWorks, Boyce said he was "very sorry for all the trouble [the stunt] has caused".

"This was an attempt at humour which we fully accept was misplaced."

- Auckland Now

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