New Zealand Police v Heath [2019] NZDC 16542

Published 02 December 2019

Judge alone trial — intentional damage — drone — discharging a firearm near a public place — shotgun — claim of right — defending property and privacy — common law rights of land ownership — Civil Aviation Rules — Summary Offences Act 1981, s 11(1)(a) — Arms Act 1983, s 48. The defendant faced charges of intentional damage and discharging a firearm near a public place so as to endanger property. He had fired a shotgun at a drone that he claimed was flying above his property and invading his privacy. He argued a claim of right to fire at the drone, meaning that he believed that he had the right to fire at the drone and did not intend to commit an offence. The prosecution argued that the drone's owner had been acting within his rights to fly the drone, that the drone was not flying over the defendant's land at the time and that the defendant had shot at the drone in a fit of anger. Having heard the evidence of witnesses for both sides, the Court found the prosecution witnesses generally impressive but was troubled by aspects of the evidence of some of the defence witnesses. However the Court found that the prosecution had not proven its case beyond all reasonable doubt. It was possible that the defendant was right that the drone had been flying above his property and that he had discharged the firearm over his own property not over a public place. The Court dismissed both of the charges. Judgment Date: 19 August 2019.