A judge urged a Northlander convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine to make a positive contribution to society upon his release from jail because he was still relatively young and had "much to live for".
Justice Simon Moore told Kiata Pene in the High Court at Whangarei yesterday he was someone who had shown he could turn his life around before sending him to jail for nine years.
Pene, 40, appeared for sentencing after a jury earlier found him guilty on one charge of manufacturing meth and another of participating in an organised criminal group.
He was involved in the biggest meth manufacture in the country in Taipuha Rd, Waiotira, south of Whangarei between September and December 2014.
At least 9kg of meth, with a street value of $3.2 million to $4.5 million, was cooked under the overall supervision of Brownie Harding, who is likely to be sentenced for his role on Friday.
Pene was involved in the manufacture of 770g of meth.
He told the jury although he carried gas bottles, a bag of ice and water to the Taipuha Rd house, and agreed to drive Harding to and from the property, he did not know meth was being manufactured.
Justice Moore said unsurprisingly the jury rejected his argument.
Pene's lawyer Lucy Postlewaight said he acknowledged he had been a childhood friend of Harding and felt obliged to do as he was told without any reward.
He rued his lack of judgment and was looking at being a role model for younger prisoners, she submitted.
Crown solicitor Mike Smith said Pene's level of involvement could not be limited only to the times he was at the Taipuha Rd property and that evidence at trial shows how he was connected to Harding and the drug manufacturing operation.
He said a message needed to be sent to the wider community, including gangs, that those who chose to help in the commercial manufacture of the evil drug, would go to jail.
Justice Moore said Pene met Harding as a teenager and later became a patched member of the Head Hunters' gang. Despite Pene's claim he simply helped an old friend, he would have been aware what was going on in the Taipuha Rd house, the judge said.
"That was an incredibly foolish and short sighted thing to do," Justice Moore said.
He said it seemed Pene's involvement in the drug operation was limited and that he responded to Harding's request for help in an unplanned way.
"Your future rests in you own hands and your own life decisions. I still don't accept you are a lost cause. You have much to live for."
Justice Moore said a letter Pene's wife wrote for the court was beautifully crafted and spoke about his potential.
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