'Collection of half-truths' fails to convince in drug case

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2014

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An Opunake couple who used to be partners in life are now partners in crime.

Charles Edward Hohaia, 50, farm worker, was convicted on a charge of cultivating cannabis after a trial in the Hawera District Court.

His former partner, Fiona Margaret Roil, was jointly charged, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last month to eight months' home detention.

Roil tried to take responsibility for the offending at Hohaia's trial before Judge Allan Roberts.

The charge followed a search warrant on August 21 last year at the couple's Opunake home, where they lived with their three children.

More than 300 cannabis seedlings were found growing in a room in their garage. No one was at home during the search.

Hohaia's lawyer, Natalie Bradley, said he was unaware Roil was growing cannabis and had not lived with her since June last year.

Constable Nigel Day said Roil came to his house the day after the search. "She wanted to take the rap for it."

She told him she watered the plants for Hohaia while he was out of town, did not want Hohaia to go back to prison and wanted to be dealt with for the offending instead.

In evidence Roil said she was responsible for the cannabis and Hohaia knew nothing about it.

"I wasn't with Charles. We had split up."

She said she got help from two parents she met through her children, but did not want to give their names to police because she was concerned for her family's safety.

Sergeant Stephen Hickey said three of the eight sets of fingerprints found on lampshades taken during the search belonged to Hohaia and one to Roil.

In evidence, Hohaia said the prints were left on the light fixtures when he packed to move out.

His niece, Danaire Koia, said Hohaia had lived with her on and off from June to September last year in Porirua. Cousin Chris Hana said Hohaia had also stayed with him in Opunake.

Hohaia's probation officer said at no stage had he told her of any change in his address. On August 27, after the search warrant was executed, he told her he was living with Mr Hana. Hohaia said the reason he had not informed his probation officer was he was preoccupied and still unsure about where he would be living.

Convicting Hohaia, Judge Roberts said the "collection of half-truths" presented by the defence was up against a strong police case. "This was a concerted effort to cultivate cannabis."

Judge Roberts remanded Hohaia in custody to reappear in the Hawera District Court for sentence on April 2.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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