Tinny house couple 'loving parents'

A couple who ran a tinny house from a Waimea Rd state house were a loving family, which made the offending all the sadder, a judge said.

David Darlo Renata Ihaia and his partner April Marie Rhodes were sentenced in the Nelson District Court yesterday on a number of cannabis charges.

Ihaia was sentenced to two years and three months in jail after he was found guilty of 12 charges of selling cannabis and eight charges of offering to sell the class C drug. He can apply for parole after nine months.

Rhodes was sentenced to six months' home detention on seven charges of selling cannabis and three of offering to sell it.

An associate, Ashton Payne, who was found guilty of selling cannabis, did not turn up for the sentencing yesterday and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The trio were found guilty following a jury trial in Nelson.

Judge Chris Tuohy said Ihaia was the main person behind the "vigorous cannabis selling business".

The charges covered a three-month period and provided a snapshot of what was going on. Information on the operation was gained through text messages intercepted by police.

Ihaia was running a tinny house and had a number of workers below him. He sold tinnies but also sold cannabis in other amounts.

Customers could owe debts for the cannabis they had bought.

Rhodes was involved in the business to a much lesser degree. She sold tinnies during the day when Ihaia was at work and reported to him.

Ihaia mostly pre-arranged the sales by text, but Rhodes also had some text contact with customers, though it was not as frequent as Ihaia's.

"It was very clear that this was Ihaia's business not yours, and not Mr Payne who helped out while you were away for a period. You just assisted when he [Ihaia] couldn't handle something himself."

However, Judge Tuohy said Rhodes was a willing worker in the cannabis business and had the benefit of the money going into the family kitty.

Ihaia was not running a cannabis operation solely to pay for the cannabis he was smoking, it was bigger than that.

However what money he did make largely went back into his family.

Judge Tuohy said Ihaia had previous convictions but only a couple of drug-related ones.

He was employed at the time he was running the cannabis business and had held that job for a long time.

He and Ihaia had been in a relationship for a long time and have four children aged from 18 to 11.

"One of the things to come out in the trial was what a loving relationship you have with your partner and children. Texts showed that you were and are in a very caring family situation . . . which makes all this all the sadder really."

Ihaia had showed great remorse for the situation he was in and the effect it had on his family.

He had also taken real steps to break his drug habit.

A sad thing to come out of the text messages that were used in evidence was that some of his customers were clearly addicted to cannabis, and there was the odd text begging or pleading for the drug.

"You were fuelling that addiction."

Judge Tuohy said he was conscious of the effect the offending had on the couple's children.

Ihaia personally apologised to the court and to his family yesterday.

He said it was "really really hard" being incarcerated away from his family as they meant a lot to him.

Before he was arrested he was trying to change his ways and had given up cannabis.

The Nelson Mail