Three students arrested over gnome raid

Three students arrested over gnome raid

Three Otago University students were arrested in Oamaru on April 12 after executing a garden gnome raid in broad daylight. A member of the public witnessed the thefts and alerted the Oamaru Police, who later stopped a car, to find the students in possession of the seven new gnome friends.

The incident was the result of a long-standing rivalry between Otago colleges Knox and Selwyn. The tradition sees the petty theft of garden gnomes as a form of “liberation” in which the students take on the role of gnome “keepers”.

Sergeant Wayne Brew of the Oamaru Police saw the matter a little differently. According to Sergeant Brew the situation is an issue of “my house is my castle. These students are going onto private property and taking things.” When asked if the tradition was gnome to him, Mr Brew told Critic that, “in reality it’s not a tradition, it’s theft.” Brew likened the liberation of the gnomes to the unlawful appropriation of a student’s laptop, which would later be returned after a year of care by the thief. With the advent of contents insurance, this is a result that many students may be quite pleased with. However, Critic didn’t mention this to Sergeant Brew.

Both Selwyn and Knox remained tight-lipped as to which garden path would lead to the culprits; however, one reliable source was able to tell Critic that the students’ plights were “unfamiliar territory for the tradition”. In the past gnome raids have gone unpunished, with the police using their discretion to instruct culprits to return the stolen property without arresting them.

Mr Brew didn’t comment on the students’ likely sentences, but said that the likelihood of them getting diversion would “depend on the individual charge and person” and whether they had entered a guilty plea.

At the time Critic went to print the Oamaru Police had successfully returned all but one gnome to their garden homes. The three students, two 18-year-old men and a 19-year-old woman, would appear in the Oamaru District Court in the week following the arrest, while aggrieved gnome-owners were set to receive apology letters in gnome time at all.

This article first appeared in Issue 8, 2012.
Posted 5:04pm Sunday 22nd April 2012 by Claudia Herron.