Veil over Macdonald's charges stays, for now

By Andrew Koubaridis

Kerry and Marlene Macdonald leave Palmerston North District Court after supporting their son during yesterday's hearing. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Kerry and Marlene Macdonald leave Palmerston North District Court after supporting their son during yesterday's hearing. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The serious charges that Ewen Macdonald has admitted to will remain secret for some time yet.

Macdonald has yet to be sentenced on arson and criminal damage offences he carried out before Feilding farmer Scott Guy's death, against Mr Guy and his wife Kylee.

His trial was told he burned an old house down that was on trailers waiting to be moved off their property and inflicted serious damage with a splitting axe on their new home. He also painted abusive words on the walls.

Three other charges of a serious nature were kept from the 11-person jury that heard his trial - the fact they even existed was only allowed to be published the day after it ended.

However, exactly what Macdonald did - and who he did it to - will stay suppressed until at least September when he will return to the High Court at Palmerston North for a sentencing date to be set.

Yesterday Judge David Smith, in the Palmerston North District Court, declined jurisdiction to sentence Macdonald on the remaining charges.

Judge Smith said the Crown and Macdonald's lawyer, Greg King, had requested that he decline jurisdiction and have the matters transferred to the High Court.

"The reasons given for the request are that [trial judge] Justice Simon France is familiar with the facts and circumstances surrounding your offending," the judge told Macdonald, who stood in the dock, nodding and looking away from the public gallery where his parents were seated.

The judge said his decision to refer the matter to the higher court was not because the overall sentence would be greater than one the district court could impose, but because it was in the interests of justice and both the prosecution and defence had filed a joint memorandum on the issue asking him to. "I'm prepared to accept that indication and exercise my discretion to decline jurisdiction," he said.

The legal move did not automatically mean Justice France would be the sentencing judge; that application could be made when Macdonald returned to court on September 14 for the sentencing date to be confirmed.

It had been expected the suppression order would be lifted at yesterday's hearing, but Judge Smith said as far as he was concerned the orders were made by the High Court and they remained in force. Macdonald has been in custody since his arrest in April 2011. No members of the Guy family were present in court yesterday.

- NZ Herald

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