Cannabis accused again found guilty after retrial in Hamilton

By Katie Holland,

Paul Blair has been found guilty of selling cannabis - the second time a jury has convicted him on the same charges.

The 62-year-old Rotorua beneficiaries advocate and barrister was yesterday found guilty in the Hamilton District Court of one charge of selling cannabis and one charge of possessing cannabis for the purpose of supply in 2010.

Blair was originally convicted on those charges, plus another count of possession of cannabis, in Rotorua District Court in September 2011.

In December of that year he was sentenced to four months' home detention and 200 hours' community work.

He subsequently appealed the verdict to the Court of Appeal which quashed one possession charge, relating to cannabis found in a fridge at Blair's workplace, and ordered a retrial on the other two.

An order was also made for the retrial to be held outside Rotorua, where he is widely known.

Until yesterday's verdict we were unable to state this was a retrial, due to the risk of prejudice.

In a statement sent to The Daily Post Blair continued to protest his innocence.

"I am considering all options for a possible further appeal. I am stunned that a jury could bring back this verdict."

On December 17, 2010, as part of a police undercover operation targeting suspected tinny houses in Rotorua, an undercover officer went to an address in Ian St, Rotorua.

Blair was at the house visiting a friend and answered the door when the officer knocked.

When the officer asked if he had any cannabis Blair went away and came back with four tinnies, one of which the officer bought for $20.

During the trial, Blair maintained it was a case of mistaken identity, saying a man by the name of "Andy" had been the one who sold the cannabis and he knew nothing about it.

However, police inquiries had been unable to establish the identity of that man.

Blair will be sentenced in the Hamilton District Court on March 26.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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