Judge explains dangers after imitation firearm incident

January 11, 2017 | By More

A judge has explained the dangers of mixing alcohol and an imitation firearm to an Aranui man who ended up in court after a confrontation with his neighbour.

Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders pointed to the United States where people claimed the right to bear arms even though there were the “the most horrendous incidents” involving firearms.

“Year in and year out there are tragedies that happen. As recently as a few days ago one occurred in Florida,” he told Aaron David Young, 42.

The judge accepted that Young had presented an imitation firearm, but things could still go wrong if people believed it was real.

“The next thing, you might have found the police Armed Offenders Squad outside your property, yelling at you to get down. If you have over-indulged in alcohol you might misread the situation. Things can easily escalate.”

Young had been due for a judge-alone trial today, over the incident on May 30 at his Eureka Street home.

However, the police accepted the home-made firearm he presented was just an imitation shotgun and could not fire, and reduced the charges. Young then pleaded guilty to charges of carrying an imitation firearm, presenting “an object like a firearm” at his neighbour, and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Defence counsel Steve Hembrow said the incident occurred when Young had had “a couple of drinks” while he worked on electronics gear in his garage-workshop, and while he played music. Young believed he was playing the music quietly, at about 10.15pm.

Mr Hembrow said Young had had repeated difficulties with people from the neighbouring property and had received threats that they would come over and beat him up. Although he owned the house and had lived there for about eight years, he had been considering selling and moving because he had grown tired of the threats.

The victim of this incident had shouted over the fence, demanding that Young turn the music down, according to the police. Young’s account is that “a head came over the fence threatening to come over and smash him”.

The victim said Young then opened the garage door and walked out shouting, “I’ve got a shotgun and it’s got your name on it.”

After initially pointing the barrel at the ground, Young then lifted it towards the victim as he walked towards him. The victim shouted to his girlfriend, “He’s got a gun.” The pair jumped in their car and left the address but returned later to call the police.

Police found the home-made item – Mr Hembrow described it as “a long pipe on a piece of wood” – as well as three rounds of high-powered rifle ammunition.

Mr Hembrow said Young did not remember where he had got the ammunition, years before. It was in a cup in the kitchen cupboard. Young told police he planned to make a necklace with it.

Mr Hembrow said Young was a qualified electrician and electronics technician. His hobby was to make extremely complicated electronic components in his workshop. He provided a reference from Young’s employer.

Judge Saunders noted that Young’s two previous appearances in court had been alcohol-related – for drink-driving. On this night, he had been drinking when he “showed a lack of judgment about how to deal with an abusive neighbour”.

Mr Hembrow said Young apologised for what happened. He had now sold the house and moved away. Because of the long-standing ill-feeling between the neighbours, there was no point in referring the case for a restorative justice meeting.

Judge Saunders imposed fines totalling $1050.

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Category: Focus

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