Chester Borrows in court

National MP Chester Borrows ended up in the Whanganui District Court yesterday on a charge of careless driving. A protester was injured when he drove his care out of a motel car park last year.

Evidence was heard, including a police officer agreeing with “Looking at the report, you accept you cannot attribute this incident to any factor on behalf of Mr Borrows”.

Then Borrow’s laywer applied for a dismissal of the charge. The judge will rule on that this morning.

Stuff: Attempt to dismiss case against MP Chester Borrows as first day of trial ends

Whanganui MP Chester Borrows faces a nervous sleep on Monday night, as he waits to hear if a judge will dismiss a police case of careless driving against him.

His lawyer Nathan Bourke made the application in the Whanganui District Court on Monday at the end of the first day of his two-day trial.

If the application is not successful, Borrows and deputy prime minister Paula Bennett will enter the witness box on Tuesday to give evidence.

Borrows, a former police officer, is charged with careless driving causing injury to two anti-Trans Pacific Partnership protesters outside the Collegiate Motor Inn on March 22, 2016.

In a statement read in court Borrows said…

…he was concerned about threats made about Bennett on Facebook, and people had jumped on his car at other protests. The driving was similar to what he did at similar incidents during his 24-year police career, he said.

One of the woman injured in the incident, Denise Lockett…

…said she thought the worst when she was hit by Borrows’ car.

“I thought ‘oh my god, you are going under, girl’ and I folded over the bonnet.”

Protester Tracey Treadwell…

…said the group’s intention was to make sure Borrows and Bennett knew their concerns about the TPPA. She believed police would ask them to move after a period of time.

Bourke referenced a statement from an officer on the scene, who said they saw a woman walk into the side of Borrows’ car after being pulled away.

Treadwell denied doing that, saying she stood still until she was hit, and was only pulled away by police.

Constable Stewart Bourne…

…said he had his back to the car when the protesters were hit. He filled in a crash report afterwards, which was produced by Bourke.

In the report, Bourne said the car was travelling 1kmh when it was “swamped” by protesters. Borrows was likely unaware of what had happened, and the vehicle and speed were not a factor, Bourne said in the report.

Bourke suggested to the constable the report showed Borrows had not been careless. Bourne agreed.

We will find out this morning whether the charge is dismissed or if the trial will continue.

Being able to protest is an important part of a democracy.

Keeping out of the way of cars is an important part of personal safety.

Chester Borrows charged

National MP for Whanganui Chester Borrows has been charged with had been charged with careless use of a motor vehicle causing injury to two people following an incident in March where Borrows ran over the foot of a TPP protester – see Foot runneth over.

Stuff: MP Chester Borrows charged over protester incident

Former police officer and National MP for Whanganui Chester Borrows is being charged over allegations he drove into a group of protesters.

Under section 38 of the Land Transport Act, the maximum penalty for careless driving causing injury is three months’ jail, or a fine of up to $4500.

An MP must resign from Parliament if convicted of a crime with a maximum penalty of two or more years’ jail time

So whatever the outcome it won’t force a resignation.

Borrows’ first appearance would be on Tuesday, August 2, in the Whanganui District Court. 

“Mr Borrows intends to defend the charge and says he will be making no further comment as the matter is before the court,” a statement from him said.

There’s been some interesting comment on this at The Standard in Borrows charged for injuring protestors.

Some of the comments are typically ridiculous, like the lead comment by ‘One Anonymous Bloke’:

Hard not to be cynical about the fact that the charge makes a by-election unlikely. Or is it more a case of no-one who has a public difference of opinion with Oravida Collins is above the law?

I can play at insinuations too. The post was under the authorship of ‘Natwatch’. One Anonymous Bloke was quick off the mark, first to comment, and had a lot of interest in the discussion, posting 30 of the 103 comments (to date).

A debate about the right to protest versus the right of free passage came up, with OAB prominent both in dumping on Borrows but also in abusing people who challenged their messages. Like:

One Anonymous Bloke:

Observation isn’t your strong point: the protesters were on a footpath (yes, they were). I suggest you remove your bullshit-smeared right wing facemask and have a look at the photos.

Even if they’d been on a road, the police response to the TPPA protests – ie: to allow them – shows exactly how grounded in reality your lickspittle opinion is.

Psycho Milt:

Being on a footpath and/or being a protestor doesn’t magically endow you with the right to obstruct a vehicle entrance or other public way. That’s why the cops will come along and tell you to fuck off. Also why they’ll drag you out of the way and arrest you if you don’t. Borrows’ offence was more serious than the protestors and resulted in injury, which is presumably why he’s been charged, but both parties were committing offences.

Seems like a fair comment and seems to sum up the situation well.

One Anonymous Bloke:

@Psycho Milt: I’d like to see the argument in court. They weren’t obstructing a right of way they were expressing their disapproval of government policy.

Borrows and Bennett aren’t Joe Public going about their lawful business. They’re ministers of the Crown ripping the guts out of this country.

They have every right to expect hostility, obstruction and contempt wherever they go. Diddums.

Further on Psycho Milt addresses the law:

they are standing on the footpath- look up rules about cars and footpaths

Yes, do look up the rules, for instance the Summary Offences Act 1981:

“22 Obstructing public way

(1) Every person is liable to a fine not exceeding $1,000 who, without reasonable excuse, obstructs any public way and, having been warned by a constable to desist,—

(a) continues with that obstruction; or

(b) does desist from that obstruction but subsequently obstructs that public way again, or some other public way in the same vicinity, in circumstances in which it is reasonable to deem the warning to have applied to the new obstruction as well as the original one.

(2) In this section—

obstructs, in relation to a public way, means unreasonably impedes normal passage along that way

public way means every road, street, path, mall, arcade, or other way over which the public has the right to pass and repass.”

A further exchange with William:

But the protesters haven’t been charged with an offence under the Summary Offences Act, so that’s all irrelevant.

Possibly the police examined whether that would have been a goer but observed the constable didn’t warn them to desist, he merely ushered them to the side. They were moving there when silly old Chester drove on through before the way was clear.

Psycho Milt:

It’s not irrelevant to the implied claim in 5.1 and 5.1.1 that the protesters had the right to block the footpath – the Summary Offences Act makes it clear that they didn’t.

And just in case that particular logic fail comes up again: no the fact that the protesters were illegally obstructing a public way doesn’t imply Borrows had a right to drive into them.

William:

Read the section of the act you quoted. It doesn’t create an offence of blocking a public way, only of unreasonably blocking it. The corollary of that is that it is possible to block it in a reasonable manner, which is not an offence.

Watch the video, the blockage lasts no more than 15 secs before they’ve moved aside. I don’t envy you arguing in a court that they created an unreasonable blockage.

Psycho Milt:

The concept that you have a right to obstruct a public way if you want to is as bizarre, if not quite so scarily insane, as the Kiwiblog commenters’ view that you have a right to run people over if they’re in your way.

For future reference, no it’s not “reasonable” to deliberately obstruct other people, regardless of how long you do it for or what you personally feel about the people you’re obstructing, and yes you can be arrested for it.

For a different take Te Reo Putake is a tad contrarian (the the standard bashing):

If I can be a tad contrarian , I can see a couple of points worth making about the debate so far.

First up, the protesters were not pedestrians. They weren’t using the footpath for the purposes of travel. Having been on about a zillion protests and pickets (and having organised a good percentage of the same), I can assure readers that blocking driveways isn’t legal. But it is terrific fun.

Secondly, Borrows is actually one of the better Tory MP’s. He’s an old fashioned kind of Nat and tries to behave decently. He’s also publicly anti-racist. That combination possibly explains why he has never been given senior posts by Key and Joyce.

If the Whanganui seat was redrawn to reflect the wishes and needs of the town and district, he wouldn’t be the MP. The excellent Hamish McDouall would be instead. But the electorate is gerrymandered so that the urban majority are disenfranchised in favour of the Taranaki rump. So, a by-election would be likely to return a Nat MP, which is a boost I don’t think they deserve, So lets be careful what we wish for there.

For all of the above, Borrows has broken the law and deserves a conviction. However, I wonder if he’ll be offered diversion, as I imagine this will be his first serious offence (other than a speeding ticket a few years ago)

A good comment despite a bit of political snark, and quite a contrast to the OAB approach.