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19 Oct, 2022 15:17

Man who issued death threats to PM spared jail time

The man argued that he was “absolutely wasted” when he emailed New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern
Man who issued death threats to PM spared jail time

A man jailed for sending death threats to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had his conviction overturned on Wednesday, as the jury that convicted him wasn’t properly aware that he was “absolutely wasted” at the time.

Michael Cruickshank was sentenced to 12 months in prison in March after he sent a series of threatening emails to Ardern. Cruickshank, who had sent 88 similar emails to government officials referring to them as criminals and terrorists, told police “to be perfectly frank I do not remember sending any emails … I was absolutely wasted so it’s possible I could’ve,” The Guardian reported.

An appeals court judge ruled on Wednesday that there had been a miscarriage of justice in Cruickshank’s case. The original guilty verdict hinged on the jury believing that Cruickshank intended to follow through on his threats, and the judge ruled that the jury hadn’t been aware that the man’s intoxication indicated that he wouldn’t.

“The defense was that Mr Cruickshank had no recollection of sending [the death threats], but if he did send them he lacked the necessary intent primarily because of intoxication,” judge Simon France wrote in his decision. “There can be no issue that intoxication was at the heart of the defense.”

In one of the emails that landed him in court, sent in January 2020, Cruickshank told Ardern that he would “personally wipe you off this f**king planet,” the New Zealand Herald reported.

While Cruickshank’s letter-writing campaign took place across 2019 and 2020, Ardern’s draconian response to the Covid-19 pandemic several months later would see the PM subjected to a barrage of hate mail and death threats. The number of threats against Ardern tripled between 2019 and 2021, with police noting that opposition to her firearms confiscation and mandatory vaccination programs was a driving force behind most of the threats.

Other messages simply consisted of "offensive, obscene or threatening words directed at the PM,” police said.