Manawatu Standard

Home detention for gang member involved in shopping centre clash

- Alecia Rousseau

A Mobster who gathered with 19 others at a suburban shopping centre to “provoke” members of the Black Power into a fight has been told he can no longer associate with his patched friends.

At his sentencing for several charges including unlawful assembly, the court heard Leslie Hardgraves was there and wearing his colours when the group congregate­d on the grass verge of the Highbury Shopping Centre in March.

They gestured and pulled gang signs at homes about “60m away” that contained Black Power members and their families, Judge Stephanie Edwards told the Palmerston North District Court last week.

There had been an “uplift” in gang tensions in the city, and their actions were designed to get a response, she said.

A short time later, a vehicle containing Black Power drove through the group, and someone fired a handgun.

Edwards said the shopping centre was open at the time and “there were a number of people close by”.

It was “sheer luck” no one was hit. Referring to a pre-sentence report, Edwards said Hardgraves gravitated towards gangs because it gave him a “sense of family”. He suffered trauma and abuse in his younger years, and it had impacted his life since. The report showed there was “dysfunctio­n” in his childhood, and she accepted this had a link to his offending.

She said Hardgraves was also facing a more serious charge of possessing of a firearm, a crime he committed almost three months after the incident at the shopping centre.

On June 8, he drove a Ford Falcon to Palmerston North Hospital, but was caught on CCTV moving a shotgun from the front of his vehicle to the rear.

A police search found the firearm, as well as seven 12-gauge shotgun rounds, 4.78g of meth and 7g of cannabis.

Hardgraves pleaded guilty to the associated charges, but said he borrowed the car and did not know the gun was inside.

He admitted the cannabis was for himself, but said he was holding the meth for someone else.

Judge Edwards said while the drugs were found away from the gun, and there was no suggestion the two were connected, there was evidence the vehicle was connected to gang activities.

The gun wasn’t loaded, but the ammo was in “close proximity”.

She also detailed previous dishonesty offending, which included stealing a bike off the rack of a car in August 2022.

The “unique” bicycle, possibly the only one of its kind in New Zealand, was worth about $11,300. Hardgraves onsold it on Marketplac­e for $800 about six months later.

In determinin­g her sentence for all charges, Edwards took into account several factors, including Hardgraves’ personal circumstan­ces, and set an overall starting point of two years and nine months in jail.

After allowing the appropriat­e discounts, she ended with a sentence of one year and six months’ imprisonme­nt.

This was commuted to a nine-month home detention sentence to be served at a Woodville property.

One of the special conditions imposed was not to associate with any members of the Mongrel Mob, and Edwards said she initially had “concerns” about the address put forward as gang members were known to visit.

Several of them were in the public gallery supporting Hardgraves, but the occupant of the home assured the judge she would stop gang members from coming to the property.

“That will allow you to focus on your sentence and the rehabilita­tive conditions of it,” Edwards said.

Any breach could result in jail.

For a further charge of theft – stealing a gasket set from Super Cheapo Auto in Masterton – Hardgraves was convicted and discharged.

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