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Court upholds fine for Instagrammer who drove boat into endangered dirds

Matt Jurlina news
Image – @jurlina_livingwild, Instagram.

An Auckland-based international rugby player and social media content creator, Matt Jurlina, who faced penalties after posting a video of himself speeding a powerboat into a flock of endangered birds, argued to the High Court that his non-custodial sentence was unfair.

However, the appeal judge upheld Jurlina’s conviction and $2,500 fine from January.

Justice Timothy Brewer concluded that the consequences of Jurlina’s conviction were not disproportionate to the seriousness of his actions. Jurlina, 24, was recorded driving his boat at high speed into a flock of fairy prions in the Hauraki Gulf in September 2022, causing outrage due to the video’s content and his apparent disregard for the birds’ safety.

An ornithologist reviewing the video for prosecutors noted that the birds likely suffered fatal injuries. Jurlina, known for sharing his adventures on Instagram, attracted the Department of Conservation’s attention after the video was reported by a member of the public.

Despite expressing remorse and arguing that he continued at high speed to ensure passenger safety, the court maintained that Jurlina could have avoided the birds. The High Court, after reviewing the video, confirmed that the birds were visible and that Jurlina prioritized filming the incident over safety.

Concerns about the impact of the conviction on Jurlina’s rugby and career prospects were dismissed by the judge, who emphasized the importance of deterrence in such cases. Despite losing his job post-conviction, the court noted that such consequences were typical for offenders.

Jurlina’s lawyer argued that he had posted the video impulsively and regretted the decision, but the judge emphasized the potential risks of social media backlash. The court also denied a request to release the video, citing potential further harm to Jurlina.

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