Editorial: Case sends out wrong message

By Andrew Austin

K2, a legal R18 drug made with a mixture of synthetic and natural material.
K2, a legal R18 drug made with a mixture of synthetic and natural material.

It was supposed to be the test case here. A Napier dairy owner caught selling a psychoactive substance would be made an example of and a strong message would be sent to others.

That's what many thought would happen, but it did not.

In the first such prosecution in Hawke's Bay, Xinbaio Zhang, 51, was charged with selling a non-approved product without a licence and selling a psychoactive product from an unauthorised place. He pleaded guilty to both charges, but incredibly has escaped conviction because it may hinder his chances of becoming a New Zealand citizen. He is a Chinese national.

Zhang's lawyer, Scott Jefferson, told the Napier District Court that his client said he had made a "foolish" decision to sell one packet of Kryptonite.

He applied for a discharge without conviction which, interestingly, was opposed by police. Judge Tony Adeane said he found that because of the timing of the incident, just two days after the law change, the adverse consequences of a conviction would outweigh the level of offending.

He ordered Zhang to pay $500 towards prosecution costs.

Acting Hastings Mayor Cynthia Bowers is right in saying the decision makes a "mockery" of the Psychoactive Substances Act.

It is quite incredible how the lawmakers of the land, and the Government in particular, have made a mess of this Act.

What is the point of charging people for selling these products and for valuable police resources being used when the person, who admits guilt, is discharged without conviction?

A serious rethink on this law is needed or else we risk more shop owners deliberately flouting the law, safe in the knowledge the penalty probably won't be harsh.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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