Stiff sentence for methamphetamine dealer who absconded for three months after being remanded at large.

A dangerous fugitive on the run for nearly a year after breaching parole was caught with large amounts of drugs in his car - but disappeared again after being freed on bail, in a decision later criticised by a High Court judge.

David John Harries vanished for another three months until his arrest in a raid on what turned out to be the largest P lab ever discovered in New Zealand.

Armed police tracked down Harries to a rural address near Taupo and arrested him as he tried to run. He was carrying two bags holding $157,000 and nearly 1kg of P.

A clandestine laboratory was also found on the property containing 20kg of pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in P, which is enough to make $5 million of the class-A drug.


Other manufacturing chemicals, firearms and cash were also found at the P lab, described by police as the biggest ever found.

Harries pleaded guilty to manufacturing methamphetamine, possession for supply and possession of pseudoephedrine and was last week sentenced to 14 years and nine months in prison.

The 44-year-old will serve at least nine years before being eligible for parole.

Justice Paul Heath increased the sentence because of Harries' "utter contempt" for court orders.

He had already served a three-year sentence for methamphetamine convictions, before breaching his parole conditions for possession of P and firearms in December 2010.

A parole recall order was issued and the public were warned he was dangerous to approach.

But Harries managed to evade the authorities until he was pulled over driving a Mercedes-Benz in Karangahape Rd nearly a year later.

He offered false details to the police but was arrested when his true identity was discovered. In the boot of the car were 54 grams of methamphetamine, plastic snaplock bags for dealing and 3.5kg of pseudoephedrine.

But despite the serious drug charges, his criminal history and the Parole Board recall order, Harries was granted bail by a District Court judge in November 2011.

He went on the run until his arrest three months later.

Justice Heath said he would treat the February 2012 charges as though Harries was offending while on bail.

"Even though, strictly speaking, bail should not have been granted and you should have been returned in terms of the interim recall order."

David John Harries
* Sentenced to three years' jail in 2008 for methamphetamine offences.

* Breached parole conditions and interim recall order made in December 2010.

* On the run in November 2011 until arrested for drug charges.

* Granted bail and disappeared for another three months.

* Arrested with nearly 1kg of P and $157,000 cash at the largest P lab ever found in New Zealand.

* Sentenced to 14 years and nine months in prison last month.

How to judge the judges

Judges from Australia and New Zealand are gathering in Auckland this week for a conference which includes a session on judging the performance of judges.

The Asia Pacific Courts Conference 2013, "The Pursuit of Excellence and Innovation in Courts and Tribunals", starts today and involves a number of speakers, including New Zealand judges.

The conference is run by the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, a research and educational institute with approximately 1000 members, including judges, court administrators and members of the practising legal profession.

A spokeswoman said the session on judging judges' performance was one of a number at the conference.

Court of Appeal, New Zealand and AIJA president Justice Mark O'Regan, Chief Justice of New Zealand Dame Sian Elias and Justice Minister Judith Collins are also scheduled to speak.

- Anna Leask