BOP man fails in bid to overturn drugs conviction

Two men admitted making methamphetamine at a Te Puna property. Michael Hutton was found guilty of doing so after a trial. Photo / NZME.

Michael Hutton says he was at a property where methamphetamine was being made just to fix a motorcycle.

But, his text messages suggested something else.

Two other men at the Te Puna property in the Bay of Plenty have pleaded guilty to manufacturing the drug there between October 23 and 25, 2020.

Cellphone records show that Hutton was there too at that time, and he later admitted in court that he stayed in a detached shed at the property on the nights of October 23 and 24.

Hutton said he was only there to fix a motorcycle that had been damaged in a crash and was not helping in the manufacture of the meth.

But, a judge considered that a text message Hutton sent to his partner at 6.40pm on October 23 was inconsistent with this story.

The text message said: “it get boring waitn (sic) for it so while we waitn gna do his bike in between.”

Judge David Cameron found Hutton guilty of manufacturing methamphetamine after a trial in the Tauranga District Court in July last year.

Judge Cameron said the text message and others between Hutton and his partner were more consistent with Hutton’s actual involvement with the methamphetamine manufacture being carried out on the property.

This was reinforced by his close involvement with one of the other men, who supplied meth to Hutton and his partner, along with the couple’s need for money to fund their habit and pay rent.

In other text messages, Hutton told his partner that his co-offender did not like him taking phone calls while working.

She texted him, “I don’t want u taken away from me”, to which Hutton replied, he understood but he was “only doing it to get us ahead”.

On the basis of the text messages, “viewed as a whole”, Judge Cameron found that Hutton intentionally assisted in manufacturing methamphetamine at the property between the relevant dates.

Hutton appealed against his conviction to the High Court.

His lawyer, Michael Douglas, argued there was insufficient evidence in the Crown case to prove Hutton was involved in the manufacture of meth, and no evidence of what role, if any, he played.

In the High Court at Rotorua, Justice Pheroze Jagose said it did not appear to be an issue that methamphetamine, as a controlled drug, was being manufactured at the property.

The contest at trial and on appeal was if the judge had erred in his assessment that Hutton was knowingly involved in it.

He said that the judge rejected Hutton’s evidence that he was at the property only to fix the motorcycle.

He said Hutton’s text message about not waiting referred to him doing some other activity besides fixing the motorcycle, and “the evidence was [that] the other activity was the manufacture of methamphetamine”.

The judge was not required to be any more specific about Hutton’s involvement.

The alternative proffered by Hutton “lacked credibility”.

“I come to no different view on the evidence. The judge did not err. I see nothing otherwise having gone wrong at trial. There is no miscarriage of justice,” Justice Jagose said.

He dismissed the appeal.

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