Tani Newton

A man walked free from the Gisborne District Court on Friday morning after a trial that has dragged on for nearly two years. Bruza Groves, 60, said that he believed the judge had taken the “easy way out” by citing the Bill of Rights Act (BORA).

In January 2022, Mr Groves was protesting outside a Covid injection centre, where two Voices for Freedom members were also protesting, when a woman approached the protesters and began showering them with verbal abuse. She also snatched Voices for Freedom pamphlets and strewed them on the ground. The VFF protesters moved their table and placards across the road with Mr Groves’ assistance and he returned to his former spot on the footpath next to the centre’s driveway.

The behaviour of the woman – later identified as Diane Lockyear, the centre manager – continued until Mr Groves became annoyed and suggested to her that she leave, using foul language in his remarks. The woman moved off but not before addressing the assembled parents and children, loudly asking for an “idiot remover” before going back inside. Shortly thereafter, police appeared on the scene in no fewer than six vehicles, including a canine van, and Mr Groves was arrested on a charge of disorderly behaviour when he questioned why the constable wanted him to “move on”.

The charge was later changed to intent to threaten, along with a propensity application.

On a separate occasion in December 2021 he had had a brief exchange in a carpark with another woman, Dianne Akurangi, a communications advisor with Hauora Tairawhiti. Mr Groves had placed a VFF flyer on her vehicle’s windscreen and asked Miss Akurangi how it felt to be a murderer. She also appeared as a witness for the prosecution, claiming Mr Groves had come up to her, shouting abuse and profanity and saying that she was “killing our people”.

The trial date had been postponed several times due to the police failing to give full disclosure.

The judge’s remarks in the judge-alone trial had been harsh and Mr Groves had feared the worst for himself and his diabetic cat, which would have been left without care if he had gone to prison.

However, when he appeared for sentencing on Friday morning, Judge Warren Cathcart dismissed the case on the grounds that Mr Groves had the right under the Bill of Rights Act to say what he was alleged to have said, adding that he would explain in more detail in the written decision.

While Mr Groves was happy to leave the courthouse a free man, he believed the case had been dismissed for the wrong reason. “It should have been because the witnesses’ evidence was not credible and the charges had not been proved.” 

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