Judge blasts herbal drugs as 'huge problem'

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 15:59 23/05/2013

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A 12-year-old girl fell unconscious after smoking a herbal high offered by a stranger in a park.

The incident last September prompted a Christchurch District Court judge to say herbal drugs were causing "huge problems" in the city.

Judge Jane Farish, at the sentencing of a man whose synthetic cannabis cigarette put the 12-year-old in hospital, said she hoped the girl would learn lessons from the incident – not to accept things from strangers and not to ingest herbal drugs.

The drug that sent the man to court was Thai High. It was a legal high, but not for young people.

Judge Farish noted that other people had been in the dock recently as a result of using similar drugs.

"I hope she passes that message on to her friends. It is causing huge problems for us as a city," the judge said.

Before the court was Kirk Daniel Rutledge, 44, who admitted a charge of indecently assaulting the girl.

He originally also faced a charge of stupefying the girl, but that was dropped.

Judge Farish noted that Rutledge had no previous convictions for sex offending and was not seen as a continuing risk.

She put him on intensive supervision for a year and ordered him not to take non-prescription drugs, including herbal tobacco.

He must undertake counselling as directed and do 200 hours of community work, which should be at an agency placement, or some of it may be converted to training.

Defence counsel Clare Yardley described him as being "an unsophisticated person" who was sorry for the distress he had caused to the girl.

He had been a smoker of cannabis and then legal synthetic cannabis for many years but had now vowed to give it up.

The incident happened on September 18 last year when Rutledge went to a park near where he lived in Avonside.

He had already smoked the drug. He was approached at the park by a 12-year-old girl who was bunking school.

She asked for a cigarette and he gave her one, and he then gave her some of his synthetic cannabis.

"You didn't realise the risk you were putting her at with this horrible drug," Judge Farish said.

The immediate reaction took him by surprise. She fell to the ground and was calling for help, and Rutledge put her on the seat beside him.

As he held her, his hand flicked up her skirt and he touched her upper thigh – the basis of the indecent-assault charge.

They were then approached by women who were exercising at the park, and Rutledge told them: "This is not right. Can you call an ambulance."

The girl was placed in the recovery position before the ambulance arrived and she lost consciousness for a short time.

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She said in her victim impact-statement that while under the influence of the drug she had no ability to talk or use her limbs.

She felt sick and dizzy and was admitted to hospital. She did not feel well for days afterwards.

Yardley said it seemed that seven months under a 12-hour curfew while on bail had increased Rutledge's social isolation.

The pre-sentence report suggested home detention would have an adverse effect on him.

He was financially stressed and had to sell his television set, but he had started going to the library in the city.

Judge Farish noted that Rutledge was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia, but was compliant with his medication.

He functioned at a lower level than most people in the community and had support from the Richmond Fellowship.

"I accept you are truly sorry for the harm you have caused this young person," she said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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