Punches thrown in High Court

April 10, 2017 | By More

Violence erupted during a break at a hearing over a gang home invasion at the main High Court courtroom in Christchurch.

After a brief exchange of words – “What are you smiling at?” – a man in the public gallery attacked a man who had given evidence at the disputed facts hearing earlier in the day.

He got a flurry of punches in as the other man sat in the public seating, trying to protect himself.

A woman Court Security officer dragged him clear and shoved him against the wall before handcuffing him with Crown prosecutor Chris Lange assisting.

The man was then arrested by a police officer and led away. “He attacked me,” he quipped as he was led out, giving a wry smile.

The victim of the assault had already left, leaving blood splashed on the courtroom door and trail of blood drips in the corridor to the lifts.

He was taken from the Court House by ambulance and it is understood a woman who was sitting next to him during the attack was taken to hospital with a suspected broken arm.

The assault took place in a stop-start day’s hearing before Judge Gerald Nation over a violent incident in February 2015 in which a patched Rebels gang member and a prospect committed a home invasion.

Evidence heard early in the day suggested the incident was over a woman, and it led to a man at the house being seriously assaulted – he received broken teeth and a broken jaw – and items being taken.

The gang prospect, 25-year-old Lindsay Trevor Francis, was jailed for four years in April last year on charges of aggravated burglary, kidnapping, and unlawfully removing a motorycle from impoundment. He will have to serve all the jail term because he is a second-strike offender.

A woman was abducted with her dog in the original incident, and driven around the outskirts of Christchurch overnight. She was taken to an Addington property, but escaped in the morning, with the dog, when she was left alone.

The incident ended with an armed police chase through Barrington Mall.

The patched gang member, Albert Enoka, 32, pleaded guilty just ahead of his scheduled trial in June 2016, but his sentencing was delayed firstly by an application to withdraw his guilty pleas and then to today’s disputed facts hearing.

These hearings are held where offenders admit charges but dispute some of the details alleged relating to the offending.

He admitted charges of aggravated burglary, kidnapping and wounding charges just before the trial, and had earlier admitted possessing methamphetamine and cannabis resin for supply, driving while disqualified, and unlawfully taking a motorcycle out of impoundment.

After the fight in court during a brief adjournment, Justice Nation returned to the court and resumed the hearing in closed court. Only the officer in charge and the media were allowed to stay.

Enoka objected to continuing the hearing without his “support people” in court, but Justice Nation told him he just had to accept the ruling and Enoka then gave evidence.

He said it was a dispute about money – $10,000 for methamphetamine he had supplied about a week before. He denied the dispute was about a woman.

He was wearing a balaclava when he and the co-offender entered the house in Kibblewhite Street, Bexley. He confronted the resident – the man who was assaulted in court – and punched him twice in the face, but he said he did not have a knife and never held it to the man’s throat. He acknowledged he had been taking methamphetamine that night. He said he had taken “collateral” from the house.

Enoka took issue with Mr Lange describing the Rebels group as a “gang”. “We are not a gang. We are a club,” he said. He denied that at one stage he had told the prospect, “If they make a move, stab them.”

The hearing had already been delayed because a witness had refused to come to court to give evidence and police had to arrest him and bring him to the Court House. He was declared a hostile witness, and told the court that his memory was “not much”.

Later, a woman was ordered out of the room for shouting from the public seats, “Tell the truth. [The victim of the home invasion] told you to say all of it.”

Justice Nation ruled after the all-day hearing that Enoka’s evidence about the motivation for the home invasion – a drug debt rather than his jealousy – was false and he was simply “making it up”. He said he was satisfied that he could accept the details given about the incident and assault, and the threats made, as detailed by the assault victim. A knife, and a machete taken from the wall at the house were used in making the threats.

He remanded Enoka in cusody for sentencing on July 5, when an open-ended preventive detention term may be considered because of his continued violent offending.

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