Dannevirke farmer Grant Michael Teahan being found guilty on two charges of ill-treating native hawks is a great result, says the SPCA.
"It's been a long time coming and there has been a lot of hard work gone into getting this result," said Danny Auger of Manawatu SPCA.
"This has been a very unusual case and I've not heard of another like it in New Zealand."
Teahan, who farms on a property east of Dannevirke, is now facing a $50,000 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment on each charge after being found guilty on two charges of ill-treating an animal, so that it suffered unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.
Following a defended hearing in the Dannevirke District Court late last year, Judge Geoff Rea reserved his decision.
His written decision was released yesterday and Judge Rea said there was no doubt in his mind, the Crown had proven the charges.
"The defendant had the ability and equipment to catch hawks. The trap had reddish/ pink paint on it as shown in the YouTube clips, and is consistent with that seen on the painted hawk.
"His [Teahan's] computer revealed photographs of painted hawks in circumstances that meant he was in close proximity to them at the time the photos were taken," Judge Rea said.
"I do not accept Teahan's evidence that he had no involvement in painting the harrier hawks. His explanations were not consistent and I found him to be an unimpressive witness. I do not consider he was telling the truth about his involvement either when questioned by SPCA officers or when giving evidence in court."
Stories of bright, coloured hawks had been circulating in Dannevirke for more than 18 months, before a dead bird, painted red/pink was handed into the Dannevirke News offices in May last year.
The dead bird and some additional painted features were passed on to Mr Auger, who began a formal investigation.
"The SPCA was given further information regarding YouTube videos under the name Rambo5421. These contained images of magpie trapping and shooting and they also contained images of a homemade trap with pink paint on them," Crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk said.
While executing a search warrant on Teahan's property, SPCA inspectors seized a computer, camera, CD rom disks, two bottles of tail paint, two traps and various photos and newspaper articles about the painted hawk.
Computer forensics expert, Brent Whale, also found a number of images and files on the computer relating to the painted hawk.
Judge Rea said one file was of particular interest and this was a video file entitled 'pimkhawkAVI' which had been deleted.
"However, the thumbnail image of the first frame was able to be recovered, as were deleted images from two separate occasions of a painted hawk flying over a pond on the defendant's property. Additional files were recovered showing a cow that had been spray painted with the words Merry Christmas," he said.
When asked about the trap featured in the YouTube video, Teahan said it was riddled with borer so he disposed of it.
"I only used it to trap magpies which are a pest, attack kids and scare away native birds. I had painted it pink to attract the magpies."
Teahan told SPCA inspectors he had only caught a harrier hawk in his trap on one previous occasion. But when cross examined, admitted he had accidentally caught hawks in the trap four or five times. On one of those occasions, he had trapped a red painted hawk which he let go.
The prosecution involved a huge number of man-hours and a lot of money, Mr Auger said.
"We spent $5000 on the services of a specialist computer forensic expert from Auckland. We also had the cost of an expert vet who undertook a full post mortem on the painted red hawk which has handed into the Dannevirke News," he said.
Teahan will reappear in court on January 30 for sentencing.