Cops crack down on autistic looter

By Jarrod Booker

Alleged Christchurch earthquake looter Arie Smith. Photo / 3 News
Alleged Christchurch earthquake looter Arie Smith. Photo / 3 News

New Zealand's top police have ignored a judge's recommendation and again denied diversion to an autistic man found taking light fittings in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.

Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp, 25, today pleaded not guilty to two charges of burglary of a damaged Lincoln Road property and possession of tools for burglary.

His mental disability compels him to take light fixtures.

At a previous court appearance on June 23, Judge John Strettell refused to accept the police decision not to grant Smith Voorcamp diversion and asked them to consider it for the third time.

Christchurch police subsequently referred the matter to New Zealand's police headquarters who told local officers to refuse the option of diversion.

Police national headquarters this afternoon said they wouldn't comment while the case was before the courts.

The case has now been set down for a status hearing at a later date.

Outside court, Smith-Voorkamp's lawyer Jonathan Eaton said the case had "been dragging on frustratingly" and the option for diversion had now passed.

"It's been dragging on frustratingly for everybody," Mr Eaton said.

"The parties' positions are pretty clear.

"The prosecution is not going to lie down quietly."

Mr Eaton earlier said the report he got from police said diversion was not going to be offered because of the seriousness of the case, and the public interest in it.

The building owners were astonished and extremely concerned that someone had been prosecuted for the burglary, he said.

Smith-Voorkamp was filmed by a television crew at a court sitting in the Christchurch Police Station watch house, and was described as "the face of looting", before family revealed his mental disability.

Lawyer Simon Buckingham earlier said on the night of his arrest, Smith-Voorkamp was beaten by two officers and taunted by New Zealand Army personnel.

At his first appearance in court, Smith-Voorkamp had a black eye.

His defence team said a complaint would be laid about their client being allegedly assaulted at the time of his arrest.

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