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Hope grows 'looting' charges will be dropped

Thu 18 Aug 2011 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

Arie Smith-Voorkamp was branded 'the face of looting' A gay couple will appear in court again next week over the theft of two light bulbs and a light fitting in the aftermath the February Christchurch earthquake, as supporters wait in hope that charges will be dropped. Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, has been charged with burgling a property in the city and having burglary tools. Police are now considering their position in relation to a psychiatric report on Smith-Voorkamp and there are strong rumours swirling that charges against him could be dropped on in his next court appearance on Monday. The 25-year-old's defence says he took the light fittings due to a compulsion arising from his disability. He freely admits to being 'obsessed' with electrical equipment and has a large collection of electrical odds and ends. He was jailed for 11 days and became 'the face of looting', as media unaware of all the circumstances of the case splashed his bruised face on the front page. His partner Michael Anthony Davis, 30, has also been charged over the burglary, though he claims he only went into the collapsed building to try to prevent Smith-Voorkamp from taking the light bulbs. Police have strongly denied Davis' claim that Smith-Voorkamp was assaulted with an elbow to the side of his head when he was handcuffed and on the ground during the arrest, saying this is "completely incorrect". They also deny the pair's claim Army personnel were involved in the apprehension of the men. Police have repeatedly refused diversion in the case, which means it is now going to a status hearing on its way to a defended hearing. The couple was due to appear in court last month, but a snowstorm caused a delay as Smith-Voorkamp was unable to get a psychiatric report in time. Police are now considering their position in relation to the psychiatric report and there are strong rumours swirling that charges against Smith-Voorkamp, and possibly Davis too, could be dropped on Monday. Both men remain on bail and an earlier non-association order that kept the couple apart for three months has been dropped. However they are now living separately. "It has been so hard for me that I now need counselling or to see a psychologist - very depressed - and still to this day I hardly even see Arie, because we lost everything: our house, my cats, and our dignity after we were thrown in jail." Davis has written to a Facebook group set up to demand justice for the pair. "Arie now lives on the other side of town till we move to Invercargill." Members of the "Justice for Arie-Smith Voorkamp" group include gay MPs Kevin Hague, Charles Chauvel, Maryan Street, Grant Robertson and Chris Carter, playwright Ronald Trifero Nelson, Human Rights Commissioner Richard Tankersley and long-time justice and gay-rights campaigner Bill Logan who calls the case the "most shameful contemporary injustice in New Zealand". The creators of the group are calling for a full investigation into the event and allegations Smith-Voorkamp was assaulted. "Justice must be served. This young man should be cleared of all charges," it states. Meanwhile police have found no basis for charges against TVNZ's Sunday programme, which took an in-depth look at the case in its piece "A Tale of Two Light Bulbs".    

Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 18th August 2011 - 12:25pm

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