A man who admitted stealing beehives and receiving stolen beehives has been spared jail after a judge showed mercy to his family.

Instead of time behind bars or being confined on electronic monitoring Justin Howes, 26, has been ordered to complete 300 hours' community work along with six months' supervision.

Howes would also have to pay the two beekeepers involved nearly $6600 in reparation.

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He appeared in the Whangarei District Court yesterday having previously pleaded guilty to theft of three nucleus boxes in 2014 belonging to Wellsford beekeeper Sylvain Bille, worth $1000, and a charge of receiving 12 hives owned by Northland beekeeper Paul Whitehead, worth $6900.

He also admitted one charge of falsifying an apiarist in breach of the Animal Products' Act. He used an apiarist's name to commercially extract just under 2000kg of honey, valued at between $20,000 and $40,000, at Marshwood Apiaries in Kaiwaka in April 2015.

Judge Anna Johns said on the face of it jail was a reasonable option but in her view there were some unique circumstances related to the offending and to Howes' personally.

The court heard Howes' parents had separated when he was young and he had remained with his mother, who now suffered from chronic pain and he was her primary caregiver.

Because of the rural location where he lived electronic monitoring was not considered a suitable option by probation services.

"There is a provision in the court under the Sentencing Act that allows judges to show mercy. I'm prepared on this occasion to show your family some mercy.

"But be warned this time Mr Howes, if you come back on another dishonesty offence particularly anything to do with the honey industry, it won't be electronic monitoring it will prison. Do you understand?"

Judge Johns said she had to hold Howes accountable for the potential harm to the honey industry when he falsified paperwork relating to the extraction of honey. Information on the documents, including hive sites, were important in relation to traceability and biosecurity measures.


In 2012 the export honey industry pumped $120 million into New Zealand's economy.

It is not the first time Howes has been convicted of receiving beehives and punished by community work.

In 2012 Howes pleaded guilty to three charges of receiving relating to a total of 85 beehives worth $27,000 taken from beekeepers in Kerikeri, Wellsford and Kamo. He was sentenced to 400 hours' community work.

In November 2010, Howes was sentenced to four months' community detention after he broke into two Northland wildlife sanctuaries and stole 26 geckos.