Farmer fined for trapping and painting hawks

By Sonita Chander of Dannevirke News

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

The SPCA has been awarded $5000, and is likely to receive more, following sentencing of Grant Michael Teahan, the Dannevirke farmer convicted of trapping and painting harrier hawks.

In December, Teahan was found guilty in the Dannevirke District Court on two charges of ill-treating native hawks so they suffered unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

After hearing testimony from several crown witnesses including a specialist computer forensic specialist, Judge Geoff Rea reserved his decision.

Teahan was fined $2500 on each charge when he appeared for sentencing in the Dannevirke District Court yesterday but could face having to pay up to $15,000 in costs.

Judge Rea said further submissions needed to be made in relation to costs and reserved his decision in awarding costs.

Defence counsel, Sacha Beacham was absent in court but Brian Webby appeared on her behalf.

"While I have no real knowledge of the case, the charge was defended. I understand there is no precedence for this type of cruelty to birds."

Mr Webby also said Teahan is an upstanding member of the community and he had incurred costs as well when his computer was seized.

Appearing for the crown , Andrea Read agreed there was no precedence and said there were several aggravating features of the case including premeditation and the harm suffered to the harrier hawks, which were a protected species.

"No factually similar cases have been tried before, as the SPCA is usually involved in case surrounding domestic or farm animals. This case has been unique and the defendant had to trap the hawks before he could commit the offences against them."

Judge Rea said the two charges had in his opinion, been proven.

"The facts showed you did trap and paint hawks. You then sat back and looked forward to the publicity in the local media which you paid close attention to and kept copies of," he said.

"I do not accept Teahan's evidence that he had no involvement in painting the harrier hawks. His explanations were not consistent and I found him to be an unimpressive witness. I do not consider he was telling the truth about his involvement either when questioned by SPCA officers or when giving evidence in court."

Judge Rea said the case had been complex and had taken significant effort by the SPCA's investigating officers.

In sentencing Teahan, Judge Rea said the fines of $2500 on each charge was only a moderate amount considering what he had done.

"However, I am aware there are further claims of $15,000 to be drawn to my attention and it is likely you will have to pay some if not all of this. The submission from Miss Beacham outlines how you have been in the media spotlight which has caused you public humiliation, but that comes with the territory when you commit an offence which creates public interest," said Judge Rea.

However, while Teahan pleaded public humiliation, Danny Auger of the SPCA believed he coveted the media coverage given to the painted hawks.

Mr Auger said this was a great result for the SPCA, the investigating team and for the people of Dannevirke.

"A lot of people were upset that their wildlife was being treated in this way and it is great we have been able to resolve the issue and find the culprit," he said.

The SPCA has come under a bit of flak from comments left on internet sites with some asking if the SPCA didn't have better things to do.

"My response to that is we are here for the protection of animals whether they be a bird, cat, dog or other animal. We will do what we have to.

"This is a similar case to the birds affected by the Rena disaster. Those birds have been covered in a substance which is not natural and so were these hawks.

"This case was well worth it for the outcome we received. We are delighted," Mr Auger said.

Teahan was also ordered to pay court costs.

Judge Rea requested a detailed compendium of associated costs by the end of February.


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