A man who was convicted of anonymously ordering pizza to a woman's house was subsequently tricked into revealing his own address by a police officer, who sent him a hoax text message offering free movie tickets.
But the conviction for fictitiously using a telephone to place the order has been overturned by the New Zealand High Court.
Timaru man Richard Arthur James Crawford placed the fake $30 Domino's order last year to the house of a woman who was an "unwitting and unwilling recipient".
The woman was upset after receiving a number of other anonymous orders made to her house, the judgment said, including one occasion where a taxi was ordered with instructions to take her to hospital. It noted that there was no proof Crawford was responsible for these other incidents.
Crawford was convicted in November 2017, but the High Court has ruled the confession Crawford made after the police officer turned up at his house is inadmissible, because the movie ticket text was unlawful.
The judgement from Justice Nicholas Davidson, handed down on March 14, explained that Crawford had anonymously ordered two pizzas and a garlic bread to the woman's house. When they arrived at her door, she got the number of the person who made the order off the delivery driver and complained to the police.
"The sergeant tried calling the number several times to no avail," the judgement read. "He ran the number through police systems, but could not identify who it belonged to, as the phone number was not known to police systems.
"Then he sent the following text: 'Thanks for your continued support. You are the winner of two Movie Max 5 session passes to be used by 12/6/17. Text your name and address for the passes to be posted to you.'"
Crawford immediately replied to the text with his name and address.
One night a few days later the police officer drove past the address, saw lights on, and knocked at the door, where he spoke to Crawford and his dad.
"[The officer] said he was enquiring about a fictitious pizza order, and cautioned [Crawford]," the judgement read. "The appellant denied any knowledge of such an order.
"Then the sergeant said he was 'the Movie Max guy' whereupon the appellant slapped his head, said 'I’m so dumb', accompanied the sergeant to the station, and made a full confession."
The judge who convicted Crawford in the District Court found the confession was clearly improperly obtained, but allowed it to be used by a "very narrow margin".
"I am not satisfied that the confessional statement, or even the admission by slapping his head and saying, 'I’m so dumb,' was so closely linked to the sergeant’s unlawful behaviour given that the sergeant indicated the right to silence, his own identity as the author of the unlawful text, before the defendant elected to make a statement," the District Court judge concluded.
Justice Davidson disagreed, finding there was a direct link between the movie ticket text message that fooled Crawford and his subsequent confession.
"The trick enabled the sergeant to locate the appellant, who denied his involvement, but when the sergeant owned up to the ‘trick’ he responded spontaneously – 'I’m so dumb'," Davidson said.
"He realised the game was up, and he was better off to cooperate with the police. That may have been the outcome had the police located him by lawful methods, but that cannot be assumed."
Davidson wrote there was a "sinister element" to Crawford's actions, describing them as "anonymously targeting a woman for reasons only to be guessed at" and "more than a prank".
"There is also inherent attraction in the narrative of someone like Mr Crawford ‘getting a taste of his own medicine’ and being undone by his own gullibility and greed," he wrote.
But, he said, police cannot engage in unlawful behaviour while investigating offences — even those that are relatively minor.