Stan­ton trial ‘an ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity’

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - SA­MAN­THA GEE

Lewis Stan­ton has been con­victed of as­sault after punch­ing Nel­son man Ru Daw­son in the face on Trafal­gar St, but a judge doubts whether send­ing him back to jail will have any long-term ef­fect on his on­go­ing protest.

Stan­ton, also known as Hone Ma Heke, ap­peared in the Nel­son District Court for a judge alone trial yes­ter­day morn­ing.

The as­sault oc­curred on Novem­ber 20 out­side Farm­ers in Trafal­gar St, a spot Stan­ton has in­hab­ited for some time, when a protest of his oc­cu­pancy on the street be­came heated.

Judge Ian Mill said there was no doubt Stan­ton had as­saulted Daw­son as he agreed he had done so when in­ter­viewed by po­lice and again in court, but the is­sue was whether he had acted in self­de­fence.

Mill found Stan­ton was not act­ing in self de­fence and could have ‘‘dif­fused the sit­u­a­tion’’ in other ways.

He took some time to con­sider a 12-minute video of the as­sault, which was played to the court and con­cluded that dur­ing the in­ci­dent Stan­ton was the ag­gres­sor, not Daw­son.

While the protest was orig­i­nally in­tended to be peace­ful, Mill said ‘‘un­for­tu­nately things did not tran­spire as they should have’’.

The video showed about 20 pro­test­ers hold­ing signs with mes­sages such as, ‘‘You’re not wel­come Lewis’’ and ‘‘Stop junk­ing our town Lewis’’.

Daw­son said when they ar­rived near Stan­ton, the protest group were ‘‘pelted with water bal­loons for five min­utes at least’’ which changed the mood of the protest.

Mill said the protest went on for 90 min­utes or longer with the op­pos­ing groups ‘‘right in each other’s faces’’.

‘‘It is not al­to­gether sur­pris­ing that things started to de­te­ri­o­rate.’’

De­fence lawyers Steven Zin­del and Abi­gail Good­i­son said Stan­ton had lashed out as he thought his prop­erty was at risk.

Daw­son said he ‘‘tapped’’ one of Stan­ton’s boxes with his foot while the de­fence ar­gued it was more of a kick which had led to Stan­ton punch­ing him in the face.

Zin­del said a Face­book page led by Daw­son, ‘‘If It Is Ok for Hone, it is Ok for Me’’, was a per­sonal at­tack on Stan­ton.

‘‘My in­di­ca­tion is you want to snuff Hone out from the cen­tre of the town.’’

Mill said he ac­knowl­edged there was some threat to Stan­ton, but it was not directed at his per­sonal safety. He ques­tioned whether Stan­ton would be pre­pared to leave Trafal­gar St.

Stan­ton sug­gested that the Nel­son City Coun­cil ‘‘solve the prob­lem they had cre­ated’’ which had been go­ing on for more than six years.

Mill said he was un­sure what Stan­ton wanted the coun­cil to do.

‘‘The coun­cil can own up to the mis­takes that it made and solve the very prob­lem that they cre­ated.’’

Mill asked Stan­ton what he would do if the coun­cil apol­o­gised.

‘‘When I get my horse and cart back I can ride out of here ... If I don’t get them well I guess I can’t be go­ing any­where,’’ Stan­ton said.

Stan­ton said he lived in poverty and did not have the money to move else­where. Mill said he was not min­imis­ing the sit­u­a­tion, but that Stan­ton did not have to camp out­side Farm­ers.

‘‘Then please di­rect on where I can go and af­ford to go,’’ Stan­ton said.

Mill said there was one place he could go, and that was prison.

‘‘Are you go­ing to keep me there for the rest of my liv­ing days be­cause your sys­tem is fail­ing? That is the whole point here judge, your sys­tem is con­tin­u­ously fail­ing to solve the prob­lem that the sys­tem cre­ated in the very first place.’’

Mill said he would leave that mat­ter to be dealt with in the civil pro­ceed­ings with the Nel­son City Coun­cil be­ing held in the High Court.

He had pre­vi­ously sent Stan­ton to prison which had proven to be an ‘‘ex­er­cise in fu­til­ity’’ as he would only re­turn to Trafal­gar St.

‘‘What­ever I do, I don’t be­lieve it will pre­vent him from go­ing and do­ing what he wants to do as far as his protest is con­cerned.’’

Mill said he was un­sure if he had any al­ter­na­tive but to send Stan­ton to prison. He asked for a pro­ba­tion re­port and re­manded Stan­ton on bail for sen­tenc­ing on April 20.

Stan­ton and his be­long­ings were vis­i­bly ab­sent from Trafal­gar St while he at­tended court yes­ter­day. By the evening, he had re­turned to take up res­i­dence in his usual spot out­side Farm­ers.

PHOTO: MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAZ NZ

JRR Tolkien’s grand­son Royd Tolkien plays rum­mykub with Ernest Ruther­ford Re­tire­ment Vil­lage res­i­dent Ola Palmer dur­ing his visit.

Lewis Stan­ton

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