Kapiti councillor found guilty of rubbing genitals on staff member gets first warning under three strikes law, $1500 fine for 'inexplicable' behaviour

A Kapiti Coast district councillor found guilty of indecently assaulting a council staff member has been convicted and fined $1500.

David Scott, 71, stood trial in the Wellington District Court last month, accused of rubbing his genitals against a woman staff member during a council morning tea in April 2017.

Today he was also given a first strike warning under the Three Strikes law.

The judge declined an application for a discharge without conviction after Scott's lawyer submitted a conviction would be punishment enough.

The judge said Scott's offending involved a breach of trust in the workplace and he was not entitled to any credit for remorse as he has shown none.

The judge said the offending was at lower end of scale, and moderately serious.

While it was brief and over clothing, aggravating features were that Scott was an elected official in a role that comes with power and influence, and he relied on staff  for support to carry it out. The victim is a senior staff member with the council.  

Under the Local Government Act, Scott will be automatically disqualified as a councillor and a by-election will be needed, the judge said.

He added it's "nothing more than speculation" to suggest that Scott's community work would come to an end if he was convicted.

Scott's lawyer said  there can be no doubt he is of good character and "it seems inexplicable "that this man for some reason would elect to indecent assault woman in this manner".

The trial

The Crown said what made his actions indecent were his grabbing of the woman, holding her and thrusting himself into her.

The defence said the complainant had exaggerated what happened and while Mr Scott accepted he had moved past her at some stage during the morning tea, that was not accompanied by any criminal intention.

The jury deliberated for three and a half hours before returning its verdict.

In her closing address, Crown Prosecutor Kate Feltham told the jury that whether the complainant felt Mr Scott's penis rubbing against her, or whether it was something else, didn't matter.

However defence lawyer Mike Antunovic said it was utter nonsense to suggest that after 71 years of crime-free living, Mr Scott would choose a council morning tea as the place to begin offending.

He said Mr Scott accepted he had moved past the complainant at some stage, but that was not accompanied by any criminal intention on his part.

Judge Hobbs told the jury the Crown had to prove three things beyond reasonable doubt.

Firstly, was there an assault at all; secondly would what happened be regarded as indecent by "right-minded members of the community", and thirdly did Mr Scott appreciate that his actions were indecent.

"You'll all be aware when you've put a hand on someone's shoulder or back to alert them to the need to make room for you to pass. That may be done more forcefully if you're in a crowded area.

"Technically that's an assault but the criminal law is not involved because it is not accompanied by any criminal intent and not thought to be indecent."

Judge Hobbs told jurors the complainant described feeling a hand then a man's body rubbing along her.

"Hands gripped her very tightly so she could not move forward or back. She described feeling the stomach, then a belt and then a man's anatomy pushing into her buttocks.

"The Crown says if you accept that, it is an intentional indecent assault by Mr Scott."

However, he said the defence had a different explanation for what happened during the council morning tea.

"[They say] you can't dismiss that he might have brushed past in a crowded room with this result.

"If you find that's what happened you must enter a not guilty verdict."

Judge Hobbs said the Crown had suggested that Mr Scott's claim he could not have rubbed his genitals against the woman because of an operation on his penis 15 weeks before the incident was implausible.

"[The Crown says that] is inconsistent with the evidence of his doctor.

"The doctor said the stitches should be gone in about three weeks and after a month it should be fairly well healed."

However, the Judge said the defence had also suggested the complainant had exaggerated her account of what occurred.

"The defence says no witnesses mentioned him stopping and pushing his groin into her for more than three seconds.

"[They also] remind you of evidence from [a couple] who described David Scott as being white as a sheet and unsteady on his feet and expressing a need for food [before the morning tea began].

"The defence says that's consistent with him needing insulin as he described and in need of food."

Young boy arrested after admitting he put needles in Australian strawberries

A young boy has been arrested in Australia after police say he admitted to putting needles in strawberries.

NSW Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said detectives had arrested one young boy over an incident that "could be a prank", 7 NEWS reports.

"Obviously in the last few days we found a young person has admitted to a prank, including putting needles in strawberries, and he’ll be dealt with under the youth cautioning system," the acting assistant commissioner said.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the "idiot" who first sabotaged Queensland strawberries, setting off a distressing series of events, had risked the livelihoods of farmers and put fear in the hearts of parents across the country.

"This is a shocking and cowardly thing for this individual and others who have jumped onto the bandwagon here to have engaged in," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra today.

Anyone found guilty of contaminating food could soon face a maximum of 15 years in prison, up from 10 years.

The threshold for the harsh penalties will also be lowered from an intention to cause anxiety or harm, to simply engaging in a reckless act.

The new criminal penalties are on par with child pornography and terror financing offences.

Additionally, anyone who piggy-backs off such a crisis by engaging in a reckless hoax would also face 10 years behind bars.

The offence would extend to people who provide false reports or make jokes in poor taste on Facebook.

"It's not a joke, it's not funny, you are putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk and you are scaring children, you're a coward and you're a grub." Mr Morrison said.

"If you do that sort of thing in this country, we will come after you and we will throw the book at you."

Mr Morrison wants the laws to pass Parliament by the time it rises on Thursday evening.

"I don't care if you've got a gripe with a company, I don't care whether you've got a gripe with your fellow worker, this is a very serious thing," he said.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the sanctions would not be applied retrospectively to those responsible for the existing strawberry saga.

"But the reason we are doing this so quickly is ... this sends a massive deterrence message to anyone out there who would further cripple this industry."

NSW authorities are investigating more than 20 incidents of needles found in strawberries. Source: Breakfast


'My god she can run' - woman at centre of hilarious Kawakawa dog escape video says Lily is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame

A Bay of Islands woman told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp she is "never going to live this down" after footage of her rescue dog Lily dragging a bakery's flag down the main street of Kawakawa went viral around the globe.

CCTV footage of the freedom-seeking furball's runner — accompanied by Yakety Sax, the song made famous by the Benny Hill Show — has been viewed more than 500,000 times since it was posted to Facebook last night.

Lucie Green, a volunteer with Bay of Islands Animal Rescue, was taking the basset hound for a walk last week when she decided to stop at a local business to buy Lily a treat.

But the Basset Hound received a fright and bolted despite being tied to a large Coca-Cola flag forcing Lucie to give chase.

"For an animal with just little legs, my god she can run," Lucie told Seven Sharp.

Lily, Lucie and the rogue flag brought Kawakawa's State Highway 1 strip to a standstill, the whole escapade captured on CCTV.

"My partner owns a local CCTV company I got to the office and I told him what had happened.

"He didn't tell me he'd done it, but he edited footage and put the music on and uploaded it to Facebook and tagged me in it.

"I knew it was trouble when basically by the time we'd gone to bed last night it had hit 100,000 views," Lucie said.

Thousands of people have since commented on the video, with many of them admiring the dog’s spirit.

"I'm laughing my guts out it's so funny," wrote Facebook user Annie Hicks.

Lucie does see the funny side of events however.

"They say every dog has their day, so I guess Lily is enjoying her 15 mins of fame." 

Lily made a run for it when owner Lucie Green stopped at a shop in the Northland town. Source: Seven Sharp


California jury finds career criminal guilty of raping, murdering two teens four decades ago

A Northern California jury today found guilty a career criminal thought to be the "Gypsy Hill Killer" of raping and murdering two teenage girls more than 42 years ago.

The San Mateo County jury deliberated for a little more than an hour before finding Rodney Halbower guilty.

Authorities believe the 69-year-old is responsible for other rapes and murders of young women in Northern California and Reno, Nevada, over a five-month span in 1976. In 2004, advances in DNA technology connected Halbower to the murders. He was in an Oregon prison at the time.

Halbower is scheduled to be sentenced on October 10 in Redwood City, about 40 kilometres south of San Francisco. The judge is required to sentence Halbower under the sentencing laws of 1976, the year the crimes occurred.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the stiffest sentence available then was life with the possibility of parole. Mr Wagstaffe said the judge can impose consecutive sentences, meaning if Halbower was given parole for one murder, he would start serving the life sentence for the second.

"Our expectation is that this monster of a killer will never, ever, be allowed to be free on our streets again," Mr Wagstaffe said.

The six murders remained a mystery for four decades until a cold-case detective re-opened the investigation. He scraped DNA samples from cigarette butts found at the scene and in 2014 they were discovered to match Halbower's genetic makeup. DNA taken from the victims also matched Halbower's DNA, prosecutors told jurors.

It took four years to start Halbower's after he was charged with two of the murders. He routinely fired his attorneys and demanded to represent himself. A judge also ordered a trial to determine if he was sane enough to stand trial. A jury in 2017 found him sane.

The start of the murder trial almost ended as soon as it started on September 7 with Halbower disrupting the proceedings.

"I am not guilty!" he yelled at the jury. "I have never raped or murdered in my life!"

The judge declined public defender John Halley's calls for a mistrial and Halbower ceased his outbursts.

"He doesn't get to set up his own mistrial," Judge Mark Forcum said.

He stopped the outbursts after that and Wagstaffe said Halbower calmly congratulated prosecutor Sean Gallagher after the verdicts were read.

Prosecutors said they charged him with the two murders with the strongest evidence and expected he would be locked up for life if convicted.

Mr Gallagher told the jury about the two teen girls who were abducted, raped and killed in a once-tranquil suburb, and that DNA from semen found in both women and preserved for decades matched Halbower's DNA. One of the victims was stabbed to death and the other was beaten in the head with concrete and stabbed in her heart.

Authorities in the 1970s said the killings were linked and dubbed the attacker the Gypsy Hill Killer for the location where one of the first victims was found. Halbower is also suspected of raping and killing a nursing student in Reno during the same period as the five California killings.

It's possible that Halbower would never have been linked to the attacks had he not escaped from a Nevada prison in December 1986. He made his way to Oregon, where he was arrested on suspicion of rape and attempted murder within days of his escape.

An Oregon jury convicted Halbower and sentenced him to 15 years in prison in that state. First, he was returned to Nevada to finish that state's prison term.

When Nevada paroled him in 2013, he was sent back to Oregon, where prison officials took a DNA sample and submitted it to the national database investigators use to revive stalled investigations. Authorities say the results linked him to the Gypsy Hill case.

Court records show Halbower has spent the past 53 years in prison or on the lam.

This undated file photo provided by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office shows Rodney Halbower. Source: Associated Press

Tracking down New Plymouth youth MP candidates after Andrew Little's 'hip' appeal

Labour MP Andrew Little released a tongue in cheek video encouraging young people from New Plymouth to get involved in politics today.

The video inspired TVNZ1's Seven Sharp to travel to Mr Little's old school to find the perfect candidate for its new youth MP.

Judge for yourself if New Plymouth Boys' High students Thomas Foy and Jarrod Wilson have what it takes in the video above.

Tamati Rimene-Sproat is on the case after the Labour MP's piece of political theatre. Source: Seven Sharp