An aggrieved quake claimant who felt "ignored and stonewalled" when he squirted paint stripper over Earthquake Commission staff cars has avoided jail after coughing up $14,000 in reparation.
Semi-retired Christchurch painter and decorator Russell Taylor Carr, 57, was found guilty of intentional damage after a judge-alone trial at Christchurch District Court earlier this year.
He had admitted being in dispute with the much-maligned Crown entity for more than two years over a quake-damaged property but vehemently denied the vandalism allegations.
Judge Stephen O'Driscoll was unimpressed with a pre-sentence report which found Carr did not accept any responsibility for his offending.
He wanted Carr to provide reparation of more than $14,000 – payable to an insurance company and EQC to cover the damage – before he would sentence him.
The judge noted that Carr had planned an overseas trip and was selling a property. If he failed to make some "meaningful" reparation payments, he faced jail.
"His attitude at the moment is such that I have no confidence he would pay one cent of reparation if it was left up to him," Judge O'Driscoll said earlier.
This morning, Carr wrote out two cheques for the court, which spared him a custodial sentence.
Defence counsel Nikita Mitskevitch said that Carr, who has no previous convictions, was semi-retired but had been doing some jobs to help repay the money.
The lawyer described Carr as a valued member of the community who had felt "ignored and stonewalled" in his dealings with EQC.
His experience, which left him mentally exhausted and struggling physically, was not unique, Mitskevitch said, and gave his offending some context.
Judge O'Driscoll accepted that Carr had become "overwhelmed and frustrated" with EQC but said it did not justify committing a criminal act.
He accepted Carr's $14,394.28 in reparation and also ordered him to carry out 150 hours of community work.
The judge said he hoped that Carr could "get on with your life" and that any ongoing EQC dealings could be finalised in an "amicable way".
After sentencing, Carr said he felt "railroaded everywhere" and that "the law is all on one side".
During the trial, Carr said "extensive problems" with EQC, including allegations that it accused him of lying and falsifying documentation, led to a complaint being lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman. He ended up enlisting a claims advocate to deal with EQC on his behalf.
EQC said its vehicles had been vandalised twice in 2015, which prompted it to install CCTV in the staff carpark.
Shortly before 11am on July 1, 2016 a white van was recorded on security cameras driving past staff vehicles.
Grainy footage seen by the Herald shows a clear liquid coming from the passing driver's window and splashing on to EQC cars and utes.
Two staff members say they saw the same white van return a week later.
Laboratory tests concluded the substance to have been paint stripper or similar industrial solvent.
Constable Tony Hickland interviewed Carr four weeks later and showed him CCTV footage. He suggested to Carr that it was his cellphone number painted on the side of the van, along with R.T. CARR Decorators Ltd.
"Ooh that's nice. Well, it wasn't me," Carr said.
He repeatedly denied the claims, and although he admitted he didn't like EQC, like thousands of Cantabrians, he said: "I'm not lowering myself to their levels."
Judge O'Driscoll concluded beyond reasonable doubt that Carr was the van driver.