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Caught with cannabis in routine traffic-check stop

Police doing routine traffic checks noticed a strong smell of cannabis coming from a car they stopped, so invoked a search that ultimately resulted in a man being charged with possessing cannabis for sale, Gisborne District Court was told.

Wallace John Wamoana, 47, pleaded guilty to the charge and one of possessing an offensive weapon — a knife.

Judge Warren Cathcart imposed 12 months imprisonment but converted it to six months home detention with six months standard and special post-detention conditions.

According to an agreed summary, Wamoana was a front seat passenger when Wairoa police stopped his vehicle about 5.45pm on June 11 last year.

He had a foot injury so an associate was driving.

On searching the passenger seat footwell, officers discovered a police scanner, and a container in which there were 37 rolled “tinnie” amounts of cannabis head (30g in total) and 132 plastic zip-lock bags — items indicative of cannabis selling.

They found a knife down beside the passenger seat.

Wamoana was wearing a “bum bag” containing about $2340 cash in $20 and $50 denominations — amounts also associated with cannabis selling.

In explanation, Wamoana said the cannabis was not his and the cash belonged to his children.

Appearing for counsel Adam Simperinghm, counsel Holly Tunstall submitted a sentence starting point of 12 to 15 months imprisonment and sought an end sentence of home detention or community detention coupled with supervision.

The offending was at the lower end for its type, Ms Tunstall said. Wamoana had only one previous relevant conviction for possessing cannabis, which was dated (1994).

Community detention would be the most rehabilitative option for Wamoana, who was willing to engage with programmes to address his long-term cannabis use, Ms Tunstall said.

Crown counsel James Bridgman advocated for a slightly higher starting point — between 15 and 18 months.

Judge Cathcart fixed a global starting point, adjusted for totality, of 15 months.

He stepped back from adding a discrete uplift for the weapon charge, but noted it could have been justified as the weapon could be seen as an aggravating feature of the drug offence.

There was no uplift for Wamoana’s past drug conviction because it was so historical, the judge said.

He gave 10 percent of a possible 25 percent discount for Wamoana’s guilty plea, which was not entered until the morning of a scheduled trial.

There was no discrete discount for remorse — Wamoana had not demonstrated any beyond what was inherent in the guilty plea, the judge said.

Wamoana’s willingness to undertake drug and alcohol counselling to address his cannabis use, which he claimed to rely on for pain relief, warranted another month-and-a-half’s discount, the judge said.

Given the hallmarks of commercial dealing present in this case, home detention was the least restrictive outcome available, the judge said. Wamoana’s rehabilitative needs could be addressed by the special conditions attached to it.

An order was made for destruction of the knife and the cannabis. Police previously seized the cash and used it to pay some of Wamoana’s fines debt.