Discharge for man in scorpion case

An aspiring ice hockey player was granted a discharge without conviction yesterday after admitting his part in biosecurity breaches in Queenstown.

Mason Anthony Brookes, 18, apprentice builder, appeared before Judge Phillip Moran in Queenstown District Court charged with possessing black rock scorpions on or about March 14 and making a false statement on April 19.

Lawyer Dale Lloyd said her client was a prospective ice hockey player with the potential to play at semi-professional or professional level.

Brookes bought scorpions from work colleague Matthew Grant. He was offered the scorpions and told the court he was unaware of the provisions of the Biosecurity Act.

"For this young man a conviction is going to be life-changing. Playing professional ice hockey is not a pipe dream."

Ministry of Primary Industries lawyer Grant Fletcher suggested to Brookes that he knew full well what he was doing was illegal but the teenager said he just did not think about the consequences. He did not own up until an interview with investigators in which he admitted a story about finding the creatures at a primary school was false.

Mr Fletcher said the hockey aspirations were, at best, an ambition and a dream and there was no evidence of his potential professional future.

Judge Moran said there was always the potential for disaster when unauthorised goods were brought into the country and the consequences involved a search of Queenstown Primary School. However, the offending was out of proportion to the consequences of convictions.

"I would not condemn you for dreaming. This, I think, was a piece of naive stupidity by a young man."

He was discharged without conviction with a condition to pay $2000 to Forest and Bird by the end of the week.

Sydney resident Iszac William Walters, 23, was fined $10,000 for smuggling six scorpions from Australia when he appeared in the Christchurch District Court last week.

James Alexander Grant, 24, electrician, of Arrowtown, and his brother, Matthew Stuart Grant, 23, builder, were each sentenced to two months' community detention last month by Judge Kevin Phillips in Queenstown District Court.

The Southland Times