Two young men were tied up, beaten and kicked for hours, blindfolded, and thrown in a river after they were caught stealing diesel from a drilling company in Kaiapoi, the Crown alleges.
Updated – full report of opening session
Crown prosecutor Deidre Orchard said the owner of the drilling company, David Clemence of Clemence Drilling, was “on a mission” to recover tools stolen from his company in previous raids.
The defence will say the two alleged victims were unreliable, were not telling the truth, and Clemence was entitled to detain them to make contact with the police.
Clemence denies 18 charges arising from the incident on the night of April 7, 2011, alleging that he kidnapped the two thieves, assaulted them with intent to injure, as well as charges of assault with a weapon, assault, and threatening to kill or do grievous bodily harm.
The Crown alleges that employees or “henchmen” of Clemence were keeping a watch because of previous thefts from the company. The group of possibly 10 Pasifika men seized the thieves, beat them, and then telephoned “Dave”. The violence continued when Clemence arrived, the Crown said as his trial began in the Christchurch District Court.
Clemence is charged both as a principal offender and as a party to the violence. The charges refer to some of the assaults being carried out by “unknown Polynesian males”. They have not been found or charged.
As the trial began, Judge Gary MacAskill told the jury members they must be impartial and hear the evidence with an open mind. They must consider the case “unemotionally and dispassionately, and without sympathy or prejudice for anyone involved in the case”.
That was echoed by Mrs Orchard in her opening address when she told the jury to be careful about any attitude that the men were thieves and who cares that they had got what they deserved. They had eventually pleaded guilty and been dealt with by the courts.
She said it was not the first time the men had been in trouble. It was understandable that there would be prejudice against them, and sympathy for the victim who had suffered losses. “Put your feelings aside and be dispassionate as you consider these issues.”
“The issue here is whether they are telling the truth about what happened on this night when they talk about the beating, the threats, the tying, blindfolding, and the dunking in the river.”
She said that about two hours after the men were caught, Clemence delivered one of them – tied, wet, bedraggled, and injured – to the Kaiapoi police station. The police then accompanied him to the drilling site to find the second man who was also found tied and wet.
On the way to the station the first time, Clemence had demanded to be shown where the two men lived. He and the Pasifika men turned up at the two addresses next day, seeking the stolen tools. He was warned about his actions by a police sergeant.
She said the men were tied with cable ties, blindfolded, questioned, and thrown in the river. One of them was always able to breathe, but the other found himself in “real difficulty”.
“The pair of them were terrified by this treatment,” said Mrs Orchard.
“The questioning was trying to find out what others might have been involved and where the property still missing from the site might be recovered.”
She said the actions on the night went far beyond what was allowed for a citizen’s arrest. People were allowed to make such arrests when they caught offenders. “If that’s all that happened, it would not be a problem.” But in this case the men were unlawfully detained to try to extract information from them “and basically for a bit of good old fashioned revenge”.
Defence counsel Geoff Brodie said the defence case was that the two alleged victims were “inherently unreliable”. Their accounts were inconsistent. They had long lists of convictions and “an abject disregard for the court system”. The Crown would not be able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
The law allowed people to detain people caught committing serious crimes by night in order to make contact with the police. “We say there is evidence of that in spades in this case.”
The trial began today and is expected to last all week.