For the third time in less than two months, controversial Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki was called before a judge on Tuesday regarding new allegations he violated Covid-19 lockdown orders.
However, he will be allowed to remain on bail with altered bail conditions that bar him explicitly from attending protests at Auckland Domain.
Auckland District Court Judge Steve Bonnar QC, clearly showing frustration, issued the decision hours after Brian Tamaki was summoned to an Auckland police station alongside wife and church co-founder Hannah Tamaki.
"You have been skating on very thin ice today," the judge said. "I have seriously considered whether you should be remanded in custody."
Tamaki pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to the new lockdown violation charge, as well as an allegation he violated the conditions of his bail.
Tamaki sat stone-faced in a prison holding cell throughout most of the hearing, which lasted over an hour. He uttered only a few words, acknowledging the judge when his lawyer's audio-video feed temporarily froze.
Most of the discussion during the hearing cannot be reported due to restrictions under the Bail Act. But Judge Bonnar did allow parts of his ruling, including his warning to Tamaki, to be published.
In addition to the new bail requirement barring Tamaki from Auckland Domain, the judge altered an existing condition to make it clear he is also barred from speaking at gatherings deemed unlawful.
"I want to make it abundantly clear that to you, Mr Tamaki, if we have this situation arise again it is entirely possible you will be remanded in custody until these matters are determined," he said.
For the first time, Hannah Tamaki was also charged on Tuesday. However, she was immediately released on police bail and won't immediately be called to court for a first appearance, authorities said.
If the couple is convicted, they could face up to six months' prison and a $4000 fine for the failing to comply with a Covid-19 lockdown order charges.
The couple appeared on stage together at an anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination mandate rally at Auckland Domain on Saturday. Brian Tamaki, 63, was introduced by his wife, 60, as he defiantly addressed the crowd - despite warnings from judges on two prior occasions that attending or promoting large gatherings that violate lockdown restrictions would be a breach of his bail conditions.
Brian Tamaki was first called to court on October 12, accused of helping to organise and promote an October 2 lockdown protest at the same location.
He was granted bail by Judge Broke Gibson, but under the conditions he not "organise or attend any protests in breach of any Covid-19 level requirement" and not "use the internet for the purpose of organising, attending or encouraging non-compliance with the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020".
However, he issued a statement just hours later promoting a follow-up protest at the same spot the next weekend. He returned to court about one week later, after attending the October 16 protest.
During that court appearance, which Brian Tamaki made via an audio-video feed from a police station holding cell, he was charged with breaching bail conditions and with an additional count of violating a Covid-19 lockdown order. Judge Josephine Bouchier issued a stern warning but allowed him to be released on bail again after he pleaded not guilty.
A third protest was held at Auckland Domain on October 30 but Brian Tamaki didn't attend. His wife, however, live-streamed the event.
As Hannah Tamaki took the stage over the weekend to introduce her husband to the latest protest crowd, she joked that the couple had been in touch daily with her husband's criminal defence lawyer, Ron Mansfield QC.
"I'm standing on the right to protest," Brian Tamaki then told the crowd of up to 2000 as he denounced vaccine mandates and lockdown restrictions.
"We keep getting effed over," he said at one point, calling for political reform and claiming that his church was at risk of having to be closed down.
He left the protest shortly after speaking.
Mansfield has told the media he doesn't believe his client violated the terms of his bail.
A crowd of about 100 supporters assembled outside the Auckland City Police Station on Tuesday after the couple were summoned to meet with police, breaking into applause as the couple arrived.
"I am basically innocent," Tamaki told the crowd as he entered the police station. "I have done nothing wrong."
The protesters later dispersed from the police station but gathered again later in the day outside the Auckland Prison Remand Centre in Mt Eden, as Brian Tamaki's court hearing began.
A small group of police officers guarded the entrance to the prison as the crowd chanted "free Tamaki".
After learning hours later of the judge's decision to allow Brian Tamaki to remain free on bail, the small crowd of supporters that remained outside the prison began singing and dancing in celebration.
So far, no one else has been charged as a result of the weekend rally. However, police have not ruled out more arrests, said police Superintendent Shanan Gray, Relieving Auckland City District Commander.