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Judge warns gang member of dim future

Police searching a house at which two shots had just been fired discovered a bag containing a loaded sawn-off shotgun, Gisborne District Court was told.

The firearm and more than 30 rounds of ammunition for it, were in the bedroom of 20-year-old Cade Culshaw, a patched Black Power member.

The court was told Culshaw, who was out when police searched his house, initially denied the items belonged to him but later admitted they were his.

He pleaded guilty to unlawfully possessing a firearm and unlawfully possessing ammunition, appearing for sentence on those and other charges arising from separate, unrelated, incidents — escaping custody, dangerous driving, failing to stop when pursued by police, two counts of unlicensed driving, breaching bail, and breaching release conditions.

Judge Warren Cathcart jailed him for 19 months but with leave to apply for home detention.

A six-month driving disqualification was imposed for the driving offences.

Judge Cathcart said the firearm and ammunition charges arising from the search on June 4 this year, were the most concerning, especially given the brewing gang conflict in Wairoa at the time.

It was the court’s responsibility to try to curb gang activities, so penalties needed to be harsh, the judge said.

He accepted counsel David Rohorua’s submissions for a starting point of two years imprisonment, then added five months for the other offences, after an adjustment for totality.

There was a further one month’s uplift to mark Culshaw being on bail or subject to release conditions at the time of some of the offending.

Discounts were applied for several mitigating factors — Culshaw’s youth (10 percent); guilty pleas (seven months), and issues raised in a cultural report (three months).

Summarising the offending, Judge Cathcart said the driving charges related to an incident in June, last year, in which Culshaw was spotted driving while forbidden by police in Wairoa.

A pursuit was abandoned after it became too dangerous and because police had already identified him. During the pursuit, Culshaw exceeded 80kmh in 50kmh areas, crossed on to the wrong side of the road, and dangerously overtook three vehicles, including two near an intersection.

He came to police attention while driving again in August, last year, because his vehicle had a cracked windscreen. Officers noticed a machete in the vehicle and invoked a search, during which they discovered another one.

It was especially concerning due to repeated altercations between rival gangs in Wairoa and on the East Coast at the time, in which vehicles, weapons, and firearms were used.

Culshaw said one of the machetes was for his protection and the other belonged to someone else.

On May 15 this year, police acting on a warrant after Culshaw failed to appear in court in April, visited his home in McLean Street, Wairoa. Culshaw was with family in a carport at the rear of the property.

As two officers approached, telling him he was under arrest, Culshaw ran at them, knocked one to the ground, then fled over a 2m high corrugated iron fence. He was not located.

Considering the issue of leave to apply for home detention, the judge noted Culshaw previously breached similar sentences last year and in 2019 — on one occasion removing his GPS bracelet.

While that might make him unsuitable for further home detention, the court needed to take into account his long-term prospects, Judge Cathcart said. Home detention would enable Culshaw to benefit from various integral programmes and counselling. It would also keep him away from the entrenched gang culture in prison.

Comments in the cultural report recorded Culshaw’s unquestioning acceptance of a gang lifestyle, which had been normalised for him as he grew up amid gang culture. He could not recognise the vast majority of society viewed gang life as anything but “normal”.

Judge Cathcart urged Culshaw to reflect on his associates. His life was his own, not theirs, the judge said. Culshaw was at risk of wasting the best part of it going in and out of jail for gang-related conduct.