Whanganui MP, Chester Burrows has been found not guilty of careless driving.
The case related to an incident in which two women were injured during an anti-Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) protest in Whanganui in March last year. . .
In her decision, Judge Stephanie Edwards said there was no contention about whether or not Mr Borrows’ vehicle had come into contact with the women involved but the onus was on the Crown to prove he had been careless in doing so.
She said it was clear from the video evidence that the car never came to a complete halt but she accepted the MP’s evidence that he was aware of the people in front of him.
“He was prepared to stop if the police directed him to do so and he would’ve stopped if he had thought the safety of the protesters was at risk.” . .
“What I knew at the time [was that] there had been threats made and … there was a protest going on outside and blocking our passageway.”
He said, at the time of the protest, he had perceived the threats to include a woman with a baton-sized wooden flagstaff.
There had also been a prior run-in with protesters and one of them climbed on his car, he said.
“I’m not a delicate wee flower and I don’t take offence easily and I wasn’t panicking, I knew exactly what I was doing and what my role and responsibility was.” . . .
He is a former police officer and that training influenced his actions:
. . . He said he feathered the brakes and was ready to stop at any point if he felt he needed to.
The driving was similar to what he did at similar incidents during his 24-year police career, he said. . .
The not guilty verdict is a good result for a good man.
He was driving slowly and carefully in the face of threats, real or perceived, from protesters who, from what I’ve seen in video footage, appeared to put their protest before their own safety.
In New Zealand, unlike most other countries, people have very ready access to MPs. That shouldn’t extend to using protest to impede their movements.
People have a right to protest but not in a way that infringes the rights of other people, politicians or not, to go about their business, nor in a way that endangers themselves or others.