Pair guilty after ‘boys’ hunting trip’

A pair of poachers were found by armed police hiding in an Owaka paddock beside a dismembered deer, a court has heard.

Martin Sinclair Powley (55) was found guilty following a judge-alone trial at the Dunedin District Court last year and was fined $2000 last week.

Michael Warren A’Court (40) pleaded guilty to the charge of unlawful hunting and received a $2250 fine at an earlier sentencing.

According to Powley, it had never been their intention to go out hunting on April 3 last year, but Judge David Robinson was sceptical.

‘‘This impresses as a boys’ hunting trip on the back roads of South Otago,’’ he said.

The day had started with up to 20 friends taking part in a trap-shoot on his property before he, A’Court and 56-year-old Tony Holden set out to look at some other farms in the area.

‘‘It was a beautiful afternoon so we went for a cruise,’’ Powley said. ‘‘Farmers are notoriously nosy.’’

They had a firearm, ammunition, knives and spotlights with them but remained adamant it was not a hunting trip.

‘‘So the purpose of trip is to nose around, look at all the exciting boundary fences in the Clutha district?’’ police prosecutor James Collins said.

Martin Powley was fined $2000 last week. PHOTO: ENSIGN FILES

Powley said it was, and claimed he had fallen asleep in the back of the vehicle.

While he snoozed, the others came across a deer at the side of Puerua Valley Rd, so A’Court checked there was no-one around and then shot it.

The wounded animal leapt the boundary fence on to nearby private land.

A’Court — known to his friends as ‘‘Veg’’ — shot it again.

‘‘I couldn’t let the deer suffer like that,’’ he told the court at the trial.

Powley said he was awoken, was given a spotlight and instructed to help the shooter retrieve the carcass.

Holden directed them as they made their way up the paddock but the gunshots had caught the attention of landowner Christopher Given.

‘‘Panicked’’, Holden took off in his vehicle as the farmer gave chase.

Once he got close enough to get the registration, Mr Given returned to the scene of the shooting with a spotlight and told his partner to call the police.

When three officers got to the scene they made ‘‘voice appeals’’ to the shadowy figures in the paddock to give themselves up, but there was no response.

They went in on foot, one armed with a Glock pistol the others with Bushmaster rifles, and found Powley and A’Court, along with the deer, in several pieces.

Michael A’Court was fined $2250 at a previous hearing. PHOTO: ROB KIDD

Why did they not surrender themselves?

It was a case of ‘‘wait and see what happens’’, Powley said.

‘‘I thought it’d be better if the police came to us . . . in the heat of the moment you never know what might happen.’’

Judge David Robinson called the explanation ‘‘implausible’’.

It appeared more likely Powley was ‘‘someone playing possum in the hope police wouldn’t find him’’, he said.

Under cross-examination the defendant accepted he had gone on to private land with the intention of retrieving a deer.

While counsel Len Andersen KC argued his client had no knowledge of the unlawful hunting that preceded it, the judge said that was no defence to the charge.

Judge Robinson called Powley an ‘‘unconvincing witness’’ who tried to minimise his knowledge of the circumstances.

Aside from the fine, Mr Andersen said his client had already faced a stern punishment — losing his firearms licence.

Now Powley had been convicted of poaching, getting it back would be extremely difficult, he said.

Holden was also charged with unlawful hunting but the charge against him was withdrawn by police.

The deer became the property of Mr Given and ended up making a ‘‘delicious venison casserole’’, the court heard.