Nelson woman Rose Renton has been found guilty of behaving in an offensive manner during a protest against MP Nick Smith at the Nelson market.
Nelson MP Nick Smith.
Source: 1 NEWS
She appeared before two Justices of the Peace this morning in Nelson's District Court on the category one charge, which carries a maximum penalty of $1000.
Justice David Whyte said it was evident that Renton's actions were "premeditated and deliberate" and not a case of being "caught up in the moment".
He said that while the defendant made the point that she had the right to protest under the Bill of Rights' freedom of expression, the public were also entitled "to enjoy tranquility and security" in public places.
The incident dates back to September 2017, when Renton and her former partner approached then Environment Minister Nick Smith in the Montgomery car park over a controversial brodifacoum poison drop taking place over the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary.
Mr Smith told the court in May that the pair had shouted at him and one of them had rubbed rat poison on him. He said he became concerned for his safety and asked a staff member to call the police.
Renton has maintained she was carrying out a symbolic protest and never rubbed poison on Mr Smith, nor touched his face or threatened his family.
Justice Whyte said the court had analysed video evidence of the incident and observed Renton rubbing a substance on a table at Nick Smith's market stall and on his caravan door and had blocked a male staffer from leaving.
Justice Whyte said what was depicted in the background of the footage was "equally important" as the protest. He said bystanders at the market were seen stopping and appeared "to exhibit concern" at the defendant’s actions.
He said the public were "unknowingly exposed" to the rat poison, with one customer at the market seen walking nearby with food on a plate and another man pushing a toddler in a stroller.
Ms Renton’s Defence Lawyer Sue Grey said the case highlighted the importance of a wider discussion about the use of poison in New Zealand and exposed "some significant public interest issues".
Renton was ordered to pay $130 in court costs, but does not need to pay fees of reparation or emotional harm caused.