11 Nov 2008

Four to face trial over illegal workers

8:29 pm on 11 November 2008

Justices of the Peace in Napier District Court have decided there is a prima facie case against four men charged with aiding and abetting people to remain unlawfully in New Zealand.

Police arrested the men in December 2006 after a two-day Department of Labour operation in Hawke's Bay and the Nelson-Marlborough regions.

Three are described as company directors

The operation gathered information on people suspected of assisting people from Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia to work illegally on horticulture and viticultural properties between September 2004 and December 2006.

Lawyers for three of the accused argued in court on Tuesday that evidence from 19 witnesses whom the prosecution called during a depositions hearing did not reach the threshold of proving the accused had a case to answer.

The four have been remanded on bail until mid-December for a trial date to be set.

Hastings lawyer Bill Calver told the depositions hearing in Napier District Court that plans to shorten the legal process by abolishing depositions hearings are regrettable.

The Criminal Procedure Bill would allow a judge to decide - based solely on written evidence - whether a case should go to trial.

Mr Calver said such a hearing provides important checks and balances.

He says it is not a rubber-stamping exercise, adding that when a depositions hearing works properly, it can potentially save taxpayers and a defendant a huge amount of money.