High price for a 'dodgy' WoF

By Northland Age staff

File photo / APN
File photo / APN

A man who used a falsified warrant of fitness for a dangerously rusted vehicle that he later sold on Trade Me, and a conspiring mechanic, have been sentenced in Kaitaia District Court.

Twenty-six-year-old Clint Desmond Culpan, who issued the warrant via his former employer in Kaitaia, was sentenced to six months' community detention last week and ordered to pay reparation of $35 on a conviction of forging a document.

And 21-year-old Cadin Evander Reid was sentenced to six months' home detention, followed by six months' post-detention conditions, and was ordered to pay reparation of $2057, on a conviction of using a document to gain a pecuniary advantage.

Both men had admitted the charges at an earlier appearance.

The court heard Culpan had inspected Reid's vehicle at the premises of his then employer (from where he had since been dismissed) outside normal hours. He had issued a warrant of fitness without following the standard procedure, including a slight alteration of the vehicle's registration number and the use of a fictitious issuing agent.

Reid placed the vehicle on Trade Me after the warrant was issued, selling it for $6300 to a buyer from Rotorua. Reid handed the vehicle over, in return for cash, in Auckland, the new owner only getting as far as Tirau before the left rear wheel and axle broke, the wheel overtaking the vehicle, which was travelling at 55km/h.

A qualified mechanic who subsequently inspected the vehicle declared it to be in a dangerous state of disrepair, the axle having separated from the vehicle as a result of rust. The brakes and steering box were also in a dangerous state and the front differential pinion had collapsed.

According to the summary of facts it was "abundantly clear that the defendants conspired to put a current warrant of fitness on the vehicle, as clearly this would enhance its saleability and certainly enhance the sale price".

The main focus of last week's sentencings was which of the two defendants was the more culpable.

Judge Greg Davis had no doubt it was Reid, although he didn't believe either defendant.

"Someone's not telling the truth, and I don't know who it is," he said.

"I suspect that in Kaitaia there is a group of young people who get together, get some old dungers, get them warranted then flick them off, no worries.

"He (Reid) got the dunger, got the warrant of fitness, chucked it on Trade Me to make some money, never in his wildest dreams imagining that anything would go wrong.

"I can't prove it, but that's what I think."

Counsel (acting for Catherine Cull) disputed that, saying Culpan's version of events did not ring true.

Reid had not been present when the vehicle was inspected, and would not have driven it to Auckland if he had suspected a wheel was going to fall off.

He had owned the vehicle for some time before the warrant was issued, and continued driving it for two months after.

Police prosecutor Duncan Coleman asked why, if he denied knowledge of the forged warrant, Reid had admitted using a forged document. The Trade Me advertisement had demonstrably been a misrepresentation of the vehicle so the defendant had clearly set out to deceive a buyer, he added.

"It is difficult to see how he is less culpable than his co-offender," Judge Davis concluded.

"He knew the warrant was dodgy and he used it to gain a pecuniary advantage. It has to be sheeted home to him that his actions put the lives of other people at risk."

Counsel Michael Powell told the court that his client (Culpan) had merely been doing a mate a favour. What he hadn't known was that the vehicle was going to be sold.

He accepted that the warrant of fitness was dodgy and admitted producing a false document. His preference was for community detention, Mr Powell noting that the defendant had already lost his job, but was doing well in a new one.

"I don't understand; they each blame the other," Judge Davis said.

The pre-sentence report said Culpan accepted that the appropriate WOF paperwork had not been completed, while the summary of facts said quite a lot of paperwork had been done but had been falsified.

Regardless, this was serious offending, and the potential to cause a serious accident and injury or death could not be overstated. Culpan had breached the trust of the NZTA and other members of his industry who had been properly certified to issue warrants.

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