9 May 2017

Whanganui MP found not guilty of careless driving

7:52 pm on 9 May 2017

Whanganui MP Chester Borrows, who has been found not guilty of careless driving causing injury at a protest, says his driving was "completely reasonable" given the circumstances.

The National Party MP and Deputy Speaker has been on trial in the Whanganui District Court.

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."

Judge Edwards said, in those circumstances, the prosecution had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Borrows' failure to stop was careless.

Mr Borrows' lawyer, Nathan Bourke, earlier said his client's driving was reasonable considering an online threat made against his passenger, Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett.

Under cross-examination the prosecutor, Ben Vanderkolk, said Mr Borrows was over-egging the threat the protesters posed to Mrs Bennett.

'Completely reasonable and prudent ... in the circumstances'

Whanganui MP Chester Borrows

Chester Borrows Photo: RNZ

Speaking outside court after the verdict, Mr Borrows told Checkpoint with John Campbell he saw it as "completely reasonable and prudent driving in the circumstances".

"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."

Mr Borrows said none of the police witnesses criticised his driving or suggested he could have taken alternative action.

"The police must have known right at the start that there was going to be a reasonable doubt raised. You've got to wonder why they brought prosecution."

Mr Borrows said the decision to prosecute was probably made in the Wellington police headquarters, which he said was very unusual for the charge of careless use of a motor vehicle.

Likelihood of appeal uncertain

One of the women struck by the vehicle driven by Mr Borrows was adament he used the car as a weapon.

Denise Lockett, who suffered soft tissue damage after being hit by the vehicle, said the MP should be ashamed of himself.

"He wears a white ribbon that protests violence against women and yet he used his vehicle as a weapon against women."

Ms Lockett said she had not yet considered appealing the decision.

"Oh, we don't know. I think it's been stressful enough, most probably. I don't like the insinuations of criminal behaviour and it was insinuated criminal activity. Two pensioners, for crying out loud, and one sickness beneficiary - hardly criminals."

Ms Lockett said her injuries were no longer bothering her.

"It stopped swelling about four or five months ago."

The judge-only trial began yesterday.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs