New Zealand Police v Riquelme-Cruz [2018] NZDC 2246

Published 13 June 2019

Sentencing — Section 106 — discharge without conviction — flying drone near helicopters — forfeiture — Sentencing Act 2002 ss 7, 8, 9, 106, 107 — Civil Aviation Act 1990. The defendant, having pleaded guilty, applied for a discharge without conviction pursuant to s 106 of the Sentencing Act. The defendant was charged under the Civil Aviation Act 1990 for operating an aircraft (drone) in an manner that caused unnecessary danger to firefighting pilots and their helicopters. The defendant had been flying his drone during a substantial fire in order to get photographs. It was accepted that at one point the defendant's drone was as close as 50m to a helicopter trying to put out the fire. The Judge considered the three-step approach to granting a discharge without conviction, namely: consideration of the gravity of the offence; the direct and indirect consequences of the conviction on the defendant; and whether those consequences were out of proportion to the gravity of the offence. The Judge found that while the defendant was remorseful, had no prior convictions, and that a conviction may interfere with the defendant's lifestyle as a traveller and international volunteer, the offending was not minor but moderate to serious, and required denunciation and deterrence. Upon considering all the factors, the Judge did not grant the discharge without conviction. The Judge then turned to sentencing and ordered the forfeiture of the defendant's drone, valued at $1700. Judgment Date: 9 February 2018.