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Imprisoned Three Weeks for Finable Offence at Airport
A judge has criticised the treatment of a man who was held in custody for nearly three weeks on minor charges, saying it seemed “totally improper”.
Judge Tony Couch convicted and discharged Dale Wetere, 35, unemployed, in Timaru District Court today, telling him he intended to follow up his case.
Wetere had admitted threatening and abusing Rotorua airport staff after missing his flight to the South Island on March 27.
He pleaded guilty in Rotorua District Court the following day and had been in custody ever since.
Judge Couch told Wetere he deserved no further penalty, convicting and discharging him on charges of disorderly behaviour and resisting police.
Told he was too late to board his flight to Timaru, Wetere warned a woman staff member at the airport he would “do them over” if he missed the plane.
He said he “knew their names”.
Wetere became agitated when he learned he had missed the flight, the gate was closed, and his aircraft was leaving.
After a tirade of abuse, the woman staff member felt threatened and retreated to a secure area behind the counter.
Another staff member tried to help Wetere, but was also threatened and abused. She called police.
Wetere also verbally abused a pilot and police, who had to handcuff him on the ground in front a large group of air passengers and airport visitors.
Rotorua Justices of the Peace remanded Wetere in custody for sentencing in Timaru, after they learned he had no accommodation in Rotorua and no money.
In court today, Judge Couch said he was “totally at a loss to understand” why Wetere had been held in custody.
He was not facing any other charges and the charges he had pleaded to were only finable offences.
Judge Couch asked Wetere why he had been remanded in custody and was told that Wetere had “no fix abode” in the North Island, but a brother in Timaru.
Judge Couch asked police prosecutor Sergeant Geoff McCrostie why Wetere was held in custody.
Mr McCrostie said he had no file on Wetere.
Judge Couch said he saw nothing in the summary of facts to justify imprisonment and noted Wetere had been in custody since March 28.
“It seems to me something totally improper has happened here,” Judge Couch said. “This should have been dealt with on the spot.”
He told Wetere he would be convicted and discharged on both counts and he was free to go.
“You have my assurance Mr Wetere, I’m going to follow this up it seems on the face of it this has been totally improper.”
Wetere showed no emotion as he hastily left the court.
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