A claimant who acknowledged having “quite extensive problems with EQC” has been convicted of damaging a row of the commission’s vehicles with paint stripper.
Russell Taylor Carr, 57, had admitted being in a two-year-long dispute with the commission but denied causing the damage.
Judge Stephen O’Driscoll delivered his judgment today, three weeks after the judge-alone trial in the Christchurch District Court, where Carr had denied the charge of intentional damage.
The judge remanded Carr on continued bail for sentencing on May 18, and asked for a pre-sentence report to assess his suitability for home or community detention, and a reparation report on his ability to pay for the damage.
The police alleged the offence took place on July 1, 2016, when Carr drove his vehicle along Barry Hogan Drive, Addington, and sprayed a liquid in the direction of several EQC cars.
The defence said that while Carr may or may not have been in the area at the time, he did not spray the vehicles. They accepted that the vehicles were damaged but disputed that Carr was the person who did the spraying.
Carr did not give evidence nor call any witnesses. He said in a statement to the police that he denied being responsible for the damage.
A witness told the trial that five to seven vehicles had been damaged, and she saw security camera footage of a van travelling past the cars between 10am and 10.30am on July 1. She said she could see a vehicle travelling on the wrong side of the road and spray coming from the vehicle.
Later viewing of the camera footage showed the van travelling on Barry Hogan Drive three times that morning. She could see a logo on the van, and two initials and a surname with four letters, along with the words “decorating contractor”.
When she received a phone call from another witness a week later, she went outside and saw the vehicle. It had a logo, and the words, “R T Carr Decorating Ltd”.
The witness accepted that did not see the licence plate of the vehicle or give a good description of the driver after seeing the original footage.
A chemical consultant told the trial that the substance had caused paint to disintegrate and bubble away from under-lying surfaces. The substance was consistent with commercial paint stripper or a similar product.
A police constable spoke to Carr on August 4, 2016. He accepted that he had gone to EQC two or three times for meetings and that he did not hold EQC “in high regard”. He denied squirting any liquid at the cars.
He accepted he would have been driving the van that day, but said he had gone to a specific coffee shop near EQC at various times.
The constable reviewed the video in detail, and found that the wheels were similar to those on Carr’s van, the hubcaps were the same, the shape of the mirrors was the same, and the logo was the same. He could not make out the licence number.
He was able to see a stream of liquid being squirted by the driver.
Judge O’Driscoll said the case against Carr relied on circumstantial and opinion evidence. The prosecution asked the court to draw an inference that Carr was driving his van that day. There was no evidence that anyone else was driving the van on July 1, 2016.
He took into account that Carr acknowledged having “quite extensive problems with EQC”.
The cumulative effect of the evidence was that the charge was proved, said Judge O’Driscoll.