No conviction for underage legal high sale

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014

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A 63-year-old Hamilton man caught by police selling a psychoactive substance to an underage girl has escaped a conviction.

Robert Albert Bird was a director and casual worker at Victoria St retailer Rota Gear and was charged after selling the psychoactive substance Tai Hai to a 17-year-old on October 13 last year.

Rota Gear is run by his son, Carl Bird, who is now one of two directors and shareholders, the other being Robert Bird's wife, Annette.

In light of sentencing, Robert Bird has stepped back from his involvement with the company and also vacated his shareholding as of February 20.

In the Hamilton District Court yesterday, Bird, through his lawyer Marie McLeod, successfully applied for a discharge without conviction after earlier admitting a charge of selling an approved psychoactive substance to a person under 18.

The charge is a fine-only offence and qualifies for diversion, but police declined to offer it.

McLeod submitted to community magistrate Susan Hovell that Bird was a retiree with no criminal convictions, and together with his wife, wanted to have unimpeded travel of the world.

In successfully arguing that the consequences of a conviction outweighed the gravity of the offence, Mrs McLeod said Bird at his age should not have to worry about applying for visas to get into various countries because of this one minor mistake.

"The problem is, this is a low-level offence, fine only, and if it wasn't in the media and attracting the high level of interest that it does, this could be diversion. Bird has a clean record, is of good character, has worked hard all his life."

McLeod said although Carl Bird had received a warning from police before, that should not effect Mr Bird senior.

"There's public interest in it, but for this man, his personal circumstances must be taken into account. The business has been selling these for many, many years and built their business on it and have been subject to numerous police operations and only had this one warning prior to this."

Hovell said Bird stepping back from the company was done in good faith to show that this wouldn't happen again.

In granting the discharge, Hovell said it wasn't so much the consequences to Bird's travel arrangements, rather "the consequences of a conviction for you in your retirement years, on what we have before the court, an unblemished record".

When approached by the Times Carl Bird declined to comment on his business, while Robert Bird said he was pleased to be free of a conviction.

*Hamilton man Hui Xie was one of the first in the country to be convicted under the Psychoactive Substances Act last year, when he failed in his bid for a discharge without conviction after being caught unlawfully being in possession of and selling the substances on August 14. He was eventually convicted and fined a total of $1000 on two separate charges.

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- Waikato Times

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