Ministry of Primaries Industries v Arthur [2019] NZDC 16041

Published 23 October 2019

Sentencing — importation of plant material — unauthorised — biosecurity risks — genetic engineering — introduced weeds — introduced pests — Biosecurity Act 1993 — Sentencing Act 2002. The defendant appeared for sentence on four charges (two of them representative) of illegally importing plant material in breach of the Biosecurity Act. The plant material included muse corms, seeds and seedlings, from species including jackfruit, rambatan, papaya, tamarind and banana. The defendant had imported the material covertly, requesting the overseas senders to provide false customs declarations descriptions of the plant material. The Court considered the charges serious, given the large amount of material imported, the premeditation, and the potential biosecurity risks to the country from imported weeds, pests and diseases. In mitigation, the defendant was motivated not by malice or profit but by his concerns about the threats posed to the country's plant diversity and purity by genetic engineering. The Court set a start point for sentence at 15 months' imprisonment, citing the need for denunciation and deterrence. After discounts for remorse, cooperation, low risk of reoffending, good character and guilty plea, the sentence was reduced to nine months' imprisonment, which the Court converted to six months' community detention and 100 hours' community work. Judgment Date: 14 August 2019.