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Te Iwi Ngaro Rameka v/s The Queen


Company & Directors' Information:- I-QUEEN PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74999KL2017PTC048635

    CA No. 374 of 2019

    Decided On, 23 March 2020

    At, Court of Appeal of New Zealand

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE CLIFFORD
    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE SIMON FRANCE & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE LANG

    For the Appellant: Appellant in Person. For the Respondent: R.M.A. McCoubrey, Advocate.



Judgment Text


REASONS OF THE COURT

(Given by Clifford J)

[1] On 20 January 2016 the police executed a search warrant at Mr Rameka’s address. They found a total of 48 cannabis plants growing in the vicinity of the dwelling located on that property occupied by Mr Rameka.[1]

[2] Following a jury trial in the District Court at Kaikohe in April 2019 Mr Rameka was found guilty of cultivating cannabis. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to nine months’ supervision and ordered to undertake 350 hours of community work in July 2019.[2]

[3] Mr Rameka now appeals his conviction, but not his sentence.

Context

[4] This matter has a somewhat lengthy history.

[5] The police search of Mr Rameka’s property in January 2016 was part of a wider operation targeting cannabis offending in Northland, undertaken by the police’s National Cannabis Recovery Operation. The warrant authorising the search of Mr Rameka’s property, as part of that operation, was based on informant information. From the outset, Mr Rameka has been of the view that the person who informed on him was a relative, the occupier of a nearby property which Mr Rameka had seen the police searching the previous day. Mr Rameka’s evidence at trial was that the cannabis found at his address belonged to that person. Mr Rameka had not cultivated that cannabis. That person had successfully deflected the police’s attention away from himself, and onto Mr Rameka, by informing on Mr Rameka. Moreover that person had not been prosecuted, Mr Rameka asserted, notwithstanding the police had found cannabis on his property as well.

[6] Mr Rameka acknowledged, however, he did from time to time cultivate cannabis at the searched property. He suggested that, when answering police questions, his statements reflecting that effect were construed — wrongly he said — as admissions of his responsibility for the cannabis found during the search.

[7] Mr Rameka was initially tried by a Judge alone in the District Court at Kaikohe, and found guilty and convicted.[3] He successfully appealed that conviction in the High Court, on the basis that he had been denied the right to a trial by jury, which he had sought.[4] Mr Rameka applied before that jury trial for a copy of the search warrant application, and for the evidence of cannabis found by the police to be excluded. He contended that application would show that his relative/neighbour was the informant, providing a basis for the exclusion of that evidence.

[8] Mr Rameka’s application for a copy of the search warrant was declined, but the Court did order that a redacted version be provided. There were, the Judge said, good reasons for that decision in terms of the provisions of the Criminal Disclosure Act 2008 relating to informant evidence.[5] As for Mr Rameka’s argument that there were not sufficient grounds for the issue of the warrant the Judge, having considered an unredacted copy of the application,[6] reached the following conclusions:

[12] As to whether or not the issuing officer had the requisite suspicion, the application reveals that an informant told police that the defendant had an indoor cannabis growing operation in place. This informant had been registered with the police for nearly a year before supplying this information. The application notes that the informant had previously supplied information which resulted in the seizure of two clandestine laboratories and the recovery of illegally held firearms, ammunition, methamphetamine and cash. Also the informant had provided information of a cannabis growing operation at another property where cannabis was located and seized. Therefore, the applicant asserts that the information provided by the informant is reliable.

[13] Further information supplied in the application notes that the defendant has two previous convictions for cultivating cannabis at the same address. Also information was supplied in the application to the effect that the defendant was known to still be residing at the target address.

[14] When all that information is taken into account it is clear that the issuing officer had reasonable grounds to suspect that cannabis was being grown at the address in question, and to further believe that a search would find evidential material in respect of the offence of cultivation of cannabis.

[9] At the subsequent jury trial, the police case relied on the undisputed evidence of the cannabis that was found, together with what the prosecution argued was the natural and ordinary meaning of the way in which Mr Rameka had answered the police questions and explained his own involvement in cannabis cultivation and use over time.

[10] The defence case rested principally on Mr Rameka’s evidence that, although he had grown cannabis on the property, the cannabis the police found during the search was not his: rather it belonged to his relative/neighbour. Hence his observations to the police (which the police witnesses maintained had not been made to them) when they arrived at his property that, if they found anything unlawful, it was not his and, later, that they should return the cannabis to that person at the property they had searched the previous day.

[11] By their verdict, the jury did not accept Mr Rameka’s explanation.

This appeal

[12] On appeal, Mr Rameka again relies on his view that it was his neighbour/relative, whose cannabis it was, who provided the evidence on which the police based their search. He says, moreover, that at his jury trial he was stopped from advancing that theory: he says he was told that issue had been disposed of at the pre trial application.

[13] For the Crown, Mr McCoubrey pointed first to the fact that, in evidence, Mr Rameka’s theory had been put to the police. Mr McCoubrey identified the following passage where Mr Heather, Mr Rameka’s counsel at trial, was questioning one of the officers involved:

Q. And there was a connection between the two addresses wasn’t there?

A. No, they’re separate — separate warrants.

Q. I put it to you that arising from your search of the previous day was information which led you to Mr Rameka’s address?

A. No, that’s not correct.

[14] That exchange followed the Judge having asked the officer a number of general questions about the nature and extent of the police operation. The officer had explained that, the day before and the day after, they had been executing other warrants at properties also located on the road in question.

[15] Mr McCoubrey noted that the police officer had not been required to answer the question in the way he did. His answer, however, established that Mr Rameka’s suspicion was unfounded.

Analysis

[16] In our view, that exchange between Mr Heather and the police officer during the jury trial provides the answer to the issues Mr Rameka raises again in this appeal. That is:

(a) First, it was directly put to the officer that the information which led to Mr Rameka’s property being searched had been obtained during a search the previous day. The officer’s denial was not challenged. In his oral judgment following the Judge-alone trial, Judge D G Harvey had recorded the name and address of the person Mr Rameka suspected as being the relevant informant. Mr Heather could have put that information to the officer. He did not.

(b) Secondly, that exchange addresses Mr Rameka’s assertion that he was not allowed to raise the issue of his concerns about the informant at his jury trial. In saying that we acknowledge that during Mr Rameka’s cross-examination the Judge did direct him to stop asking questions of the prosecutor. That is a proper direction. If Mr Rameka’s counsel had considered it appropriate, he could have raised issues arising in re examination.

[17]

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In our view, those are sufficient reasons to dismiss Mr Rameka’s appeal. Result [18] Mr Rameka’s appeal is dismissed. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [1] Mr Rameka lives on whenua collectively owned by him and his relations. Mr Rameka emphasised that, therefore, neither that land, nor the buildings located on it, were “his”. [2] R v Rameka [2019] NZDC 16099. [3] Police v Rameka [2016] NZDC 22791. [4] Rameka v Police [2017] NZHC 2622. [5] R v Rameka [2019] NZDC 3890 at [9]. [6] We record that at the hearing of Mr Rameka’s appeal we indicated we would also review an unredacted version of the warrant documentation. We confirm we have subsequently done so. On the basis of that review, we endorse the Judge’s conclusions recorded above.
O R







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