A Wanaka man accused of stealing livestock worth hundreds of thousands dollars has appeared before a jury in the Invercargill District Court today.
Simon Robert Hawkins pleaded not guilty to 22 charges of theft, relating to deer, sheep, stags, velvet and barley taken from Criffel Deer Farm and West Wanaka Station farmer Grant Cochrane between 2009 and 2011.
Hawkins was jointly charged with Dean Thomas Herd, manager of Criffel Deer Farm, who has pleaded guilty to all charges.
Crown prosecutor John Young said Herd had given Hawkins the livestock to take to Alliance to be killed, and the two intended to split the profits.
In total, 631 deer, worth $278,000, were taken, along with 11 stags valued at $10,000 and about 120 sheep.
Hawkins claimed he thought the livestock belonged to Mr Herd and believed he was acting legally when selling the animals, and the jury would have to decide whether this was the case, Mr Young said.
''There's no doubt Mr Hawkins took the deer. The question or the issue will be did he do so dishonestly?''
Defence lawyer Ron Mansfield said Hawkins had believed he was dealing with ''an honest and reliable man'', and when he discovered the stock was not Mr Herd's to sell, had co-operated with police.
The trial, being heard before Judge Michael Turner, is expected to continue for two weeks.
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