Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Defence lawyer hits at cannabis activists

Defence lawyer hits at cannabis activists

03.11.2004 - By MONIQUE DEVEREUX

A disabled man who unsuccessfully defended a cannabis cultivation charge on the grounds that it was for medicinal use was "over-ridden by a number of pro-cannabis activists", his lawyer said.

Neville Yates of Christchurch is wheelchair-bound and brain-damaged. Since a serious accident when he was 14 he has had a stroke, suffered paralysis and had one foot amputated.

Yesterday the 44-year-old was jailed for five months. The conviction was his fourth for cultivation and ninth on cannabis-related grounds.

But the sentence handed down by Judge David Holderness caused an uproar at the Christchurch District Court. The Crown and the probation service both supported a community-based sentence, which was what Yates' supporters were expecting.

Security guards had to remove cannabis decriminalisation supporters - one wearing a "Free the Weed" hat - from the building after they started yelling "there is no justice in sending a cripple to prison".

The melee continued outside the court for several minutes. It had been expected - the guards had been in court throughout the sentencing and police sat outside the courthouse.

Yates was found guilty of the charge by a jury last month. He had defended himself although he had pro-decriminalisation activist Blair Anderson as his Mackenzie friend, or court assistant.

But yesterday Yates enlisted the help of defence lawyer Tony Garrett.

"Mr Yates has for a number of years attempted to establish that the use of cannabis alleviates chronic pain. That was the point that he wanted to reinforce particularly to Government and to that extent he took part in the
select committee process," Mr Garrett said.

During the trial Christchurch Central MP Tim Barnett said Yates had been a regular visitor to his electorate office and had taken part in a health select committee hearing into using cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Mr Garrett said Yates' efforts were "genuine steps" to pursue the issue he believed in.

"But that genuine position seems to have been over-ridden by a number of pro-cannabis activists.

"He goes from the position of being genuine campaigner, approaching the issue through Parliament, to adopting this rather unconventional procedure at trial."

Mr Garrett said it was unfortunate that people who saw decriminalisation as desirable supported Mr Yates, "but people in Mr Yates' position garner sympathy from pro-cannabis users".

Judge Holderness agreed, saying he did not need to tell Yates that cultivation of cannabis was illegal. "The law has not yet changed. It is by no means certain that it will change."

He said it was clear from Mr Barnett's testimony that "the home cultivation of cannabis was not indicated to be any part of a future change to the law".

The judge said Yates' decision to defend himself and the advice he took from friends had not helped.

"You were not, in my view, greatly assisted in your defence by your Mackenzie friend, and only served the needs of a group who were plainly pro-cannabis advocates."

Outside the court those advocates, and in particular Mr Anderson, were angry to have been singled out.

Mr Anderson said his help came from "good intentions" and was not a method of pushing his own cause.

Judge Holderness said imposing community work would be "somewhat impractical". He could give no credit for a guilty plea, Yates was a serial offender and he had offered no real defence to his charge.

Imposing a non-custodial sentence "would be to suggest there is some kind of special category for cannabis cultivation offences ... there is no such category".

Home detention was also denied.
Copyright 2004, NZ Herald

NOTE: Tony Garrett has been involved in advising Neville Yates 'from the begining', as legal aid bills will account. - Pretty damn disengenuous to the truth, eh!

Sell the advocates down the drain, to save Neville?? Who got it wrong, the lawyer or the advocate?

Blair Anderson
50 Wainoni Road, WAINONI, Christchurch, NZ 8006
phone ++64 3 389-4065 cell 025 2657219

Mild Green Initiatives for your liberty, pleasure, health and safety.

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