The sentencing of a Feilding farmer recently acquitted of one of New Zealand's most controversial murders has struck a legal speed bump.
Ewen Macdonald, who on July 3 was found not guilty of gunning down his brother-in-law Scott Guy, briefly appeared before Judge David Smith in Palmerston North District Court on Tuesday afternoon for a hearing that had been expected to decide a sentencing date for charges he has admitted.
However, Judge Smith instead agreed to an application by MacDonald's legal team and the Crown to divert the case to the High Court, for a sentencing hearing in September.
Judge Smith said the section of law under which the request was made was normally reserved for charges that were above a district court's jurisdiction. While that was not the situation here, he had discretion to still agree to the change.
"The over-riding consideration, in my view, is the requirement that justice be done. As both prosecution and the defence believe that justice will be best served by the High Court sentencing, I am prepared to accept their application."
MacDonald was remanded in custody to a hearing, also in Palmerston North, at 10am on September 14.
Suppression orders remain in place for three of the six charges he has pleaded guilty to.
The three other charges, relating to vandalism, arson and poaching, were laid in May 2011 and refer to incidents up to four years before Mr Guy's shotgun death in July, 2010.
MacDonald waved to his parents and smiled before stepping into the dock.
He has admitted poaching two deer valued at tens of thousands of dollars from a Feilding farm neighbouring the Guy property in December 2006, burning down an old farmhouse on Mr Guy's property in October 2008 and vandalising his new home with an axe and offensive graffiti in January 2009.