Man on trial for removing children from wife's car

Gisborne Courthouse. File picture by Rebecca Grunwell

A FATHER accused of abducting his two pre-schoolers when their mother left them alone in a vehicle outside a shop, says he did so because he feared for their safety.

The man, whose name was suppressed to protect the identities of the children, was charged in respect of each of them with unlawfully taking them or, alternatively, with unlawfully detaining them.

He went on trial in Gisborne District Court yesterday.

Opening the Crown case, prosecutor Jo Rielly said the jury would need to decide verdicts on either of those sets of alternative charges.

Mrs Rielly said the man had no right to take the children.

A month earlier the Family Court had issued interim protection and parenting orders in favour of their mother.

The father’s access to the children was at that time limited to supervised visits only.

Evidence would show that after leaving a preschool mid-afternoon with her children, the woman was followed by the man to the Elgin Shops, where she stopped briefly to buy a Lotto ticket.

She parked her vehicle outside and went into the dairy. She left the children strapped into their car seats and the vehicle locked.

She returned from the store a few minutes later to find the children gone.

Denials

The woman phoned their father. He denied having the children and said he was at his nearby home. She went there but he was out.

She called him again and he again denied the children were with him.

She returned to a house where she was staying and police were called.

The man did have the children, and made efforts to conceal their whereabouts.

He left a vehicle he had been driving (captured on CCTV footage outside the preschool and at the shopping centre) around the back of a friend’s house.

That night he went with the children to another associate’s house, asking if that friend could arrange another vehicle. The friend declined.

The next day, using another of his own cars, the man drove his children and a different friend to Hawke’s Bay.

No one was told about the circumstances in which he had the children and no one in authority was contacted.

He withdrew two sums of $2000 from his bank accounts.

The group stayed in a motel overnight.

Police break down door

When police broke down the motel room door the next morning, the man claimed he was preparing to take the children back to Gisborne.

The defendant is represented in the trial by counsel Tiana Epati, assisted by Lucy Rishworth.

In an opening statement outlining the issues in the case, Ms Rishworth told jurors the trial would probably rest on the same two questions in relation to each of the charges: whether the Crown had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it was unlawful in those circumstances for the man to take or keep his children, and whether the Crown had likewise proved that at the time of taking them (or keeping them) the man did not have a good faith belief in possession to his children.

While that second question might sound a bit odd, the law provided a specific exception to abduction for people who honestly believed they had a right to take and keep their children, as did the defendant in this case, Ms Rishworth said.

His children were left unsupervised in a car and he was concerned about their welfare.

“Whether it’s something you or I would have done or thought, is irrelevant,” Ms Rishworth told jurors.

“It doesn’t have to be a reasonable belief, just honestly held,” she said.

If there was a reasonable possibility the man honestly believed he was justified in taking and keeping his children for a period, then he was not guilty.

Jurors would need to focus on what happened in the lead-up to the incident. They would also need to focus on what the defendant said in the days following to other people about what he had done.

A statement of agreed facts given to jurors confirmed the interim parenting and protection orders were in place at the time of the incident and that the man’s access visits were restricted to supervised contact only.

The statement also showed that just under a year later, the Family Court made a final parenting order allowing the children’s father unsupervised contact for three consecutive weekends a month.

Judge Warren Cathcart is presiding.

The trial is expected to finish today or tomorrow.

A FATHER accused of abducting his two pre-schoolers when their mother left them alone in a vehicle outside a shop, says he did so because he feared for their safety.

The man, whose name was suppressed to protect the identities of the children, was charged in respect of each of them with unlawfully taking them or, alternatively, with unlawfully detaining them.

He went on trial in Gisborne District Court yesterday.

Opening the Crown case, prosecutor Jo Rielly said the jury would need to decide verdicts on either of those sets of alternative charges.

Mrs Rielly said the man had no right to take the children.

A month earlier the Family Court had issued interim protection and parenting orders in favour of their mother.

The father’s access to the children was at that time limited to supervised visits only.

Evidence would show that after leaving a preschool mid-afternoon with her children, the woman was followed by the man to the Elgin Shops, where she stopped briefly to buy a Lotto ticket.

She parked her vehicle outside and went into the dairy. She left the children strapped into their car seats and the vehicle locked.

She returned from the store a few minutes later to find the children gone.

Denials

The woman phoned their father. He denied having the children and said he was at his nearby home. She went there but he was out.

She called him again and he again denied the children were with him.

She returned to a house where she was staying and police were called.

The man did have the children, and made efforts to conceal their whereabouts.

He left a vehicle he had been driving (captured on CCTV footage outside the preschool and at the shopping centre) around the back of a friend’s house.

That night he went with the children to another associate’s house, asking if that friend could arrange another vehicle. The friend declined.

The next day, using another of his own cars, the man drove his children and a different friend to Hawke’s Bay.

No one was told about the circumstances in which he had the children and no one in authority was contacted.

He withdrew two sums of $2000 from his bank accounts.

The group stayed in a motel overnight.

Police break down door

When police broke down the motel room door the next morning, the man claimed he was preparing to take the children back to Gisborne.

The defendant is represented in the trial by counsel Tiana Epati, assisted by Lucy Rishworth.

In an opening statement outlining the issues in the case, Ms Rishworth told jurors the trial would probably rest on the same two questions in relation to each of the charges: whether the Crown had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it was unlawful in those circumstances for the man to take or keep his children, and whether the Crown had likewise proved that at the time of taking them (or keeping them) the man did not have a good faith belief in possession to his children.

While that second question might sound a bit odd, the law provided a specific exception to abduction for people who honestly believed they had a right to take and keep their children, as did the defendant in this case, Ms Rishworth said.

His children were left unsupervised in a car and he was concerned about their welfare.

“Whether it’s something you or I would have done or thought, is irrelevant,” Ms Rishworth told jurors.

“It doesn’t have to be a reasonable belief, just honestly held,” she said.

If there was a reasonable possibility the man honestly believed he was justified in taking and keeping his children for a period, then he was not guilty.

Jurors would need to focus on what happened in the lead-up to the incident. They would also need to focus on what the defendant said in the days following to other people about what he had done.

A statement of agreed facts given to jurors confirmed the interim parenting and protection orders were in place at the time of the incident and that the man’s access visits were restricted to supervised contact only.

The statement also showed that just under a year later, the Family Court made a final parenting order allowing the children’s father unsupervised contact for three consecutive weekends a month.

Judge Warren Cathcart is presiding.

The trial is expected to finish today or tomorrow.

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