A Whangarei man's bid to appeal his conviction on two arson attacks, including one on a public toilet that caused more than $70,000 damage, more than seven years later, has been dismissed.
Leiden Cheyne O'Sullivan pleaded guilty in the Whangarei District Court in May 2008 to two charges of arson and he was sentenced in the High Court in August of that year to six months' home detention and ordered to pay $1000 in reparation.
He lit two fires on the same night in November 2007 - one in the women's public toilet at the Barge Showgrounds and the other in a portable toilet on Pompallier Estate Drive which caused more than $3600 damage.
On January 22, 2016, O'Sullivan filed a notice of appeal against conviction and Justice John Wild directed the notice should be treated as an application for an extension of time to appeal. He directed the application should be treated separately from the proposed appeal. The Crown opposed an objection of time being granted.
The essence of O'Sullivan's argument on appeal was he did not make an informed decision in regards to the Barge Park fire because he was subjected to undue pressure by his lawyer Arthur Fairley to abandon his application to vacate the guilty plea. He made a similar allegation against Justice Rhys Harrison who sentenced him. His mother's complaints to the New Zealand Law Society against Mr Fairley and to the Judicial Conduct Commissioner against Justice Harrison were dismissed.
While explaining to the Court of Appeal the long delay in filing an appeal, O'Sullivan and his mother in their affidavits argued that without legal aid they could not afford a lawyer until 2015 when she came into an inheritance. They then instructed Francisc Deliu in March 2015 and a notice of appeal was filed.
In his affidavit filed in the Court of Appeal, O'Sullivan said he did not light the fires and did not do anything to help the person who lit them. A female was dealt with in Youth Court in relation to the fires.
The Court of Appeal, while noting O'Sullivan's family's financial circumstances, said the delay in filing an appeal was extraordinarily long and the Crown would be prejudiced by the lengthy delay. The guilty pleas were not entered simply on the basis of a summary of facts, but rather after a depositions' hearing where the Crown evidence had been tested, the court ruled. "Mr O'Sullivan was facing significant litigation risk and secured a sentence that was, on anyone's view of it, very lenient," Justices Randerson, Stevens, and French said. "The fact Mr O'Sullivan has later come to regret his decision is not the test."