A 57-year-old Peria woman suspected by the prosecution and defence of covering for her children was convicted on firearms and drug charges and sentenced to 170 hours' community work.

Michele Atlanta Stewart admitted charges of unlawful possession of a pistol and possession of cannabis in the Kaitaia District Court last week.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Peter Wackrow told Judge BA Gibson that he suspected that the firearm belonged to one of the defendant's sons: "I don't think she was going to go off and shoot someone with it," he said.

Defence counsel Michael Powell told the court that his client had been intending to surrender the weapon to authorities "at some stage", while he suspected that she was "covering" for a daughter over the cannabis.


The charges were laid after police went to the defendant's address to arrest her children for possessing cannabis for supply after an attempt was made to dispatch two four-wheel-drive tyres in which almost 3kg of the drug was concealed from Kaitaia to Queenstown earlier in the year.

When they arrived at her home police saw Stewart, who was the holder of a firearms licence, and her daughter run through the house and out a side door towards an area of bush. The defendant was carrying a bucket containing a single-barrel shotgun that had been cut down into a pistol, and was broken down into three parts, the butt, stock and barrel.

Six more firearms were found in a cabinet in the house. Ammunition of various calibres, including about 50 shotgun rounds, was also found, along with 32g of cannabis head material, 84g of cannabis leaf and hundreds of seeds.

Stewart told police that she had found the shotgun a short time earlier and had intended to throw it down a bank so police would not find it, as she knew it was illegal. The cannabis was for her own use.

Judge Gibson accepted that the pistol was not Stewart's, but it had been in her possession. It was significant that it had been broken down into three parts, he added.