The Crown says a jury can sympathise with a Kaiapoi business owner’s frustrations about repeated thefts from his company’s operations, but it also said: “The law is there to protect us all.”
The comments were made in Crown prosecutor Deidre Orchard’s closing address to the jury in the five-day Christchurch District Court trial involving kidnap and assault charges.
The defence says the detaining of the two men caught siphoning diesel from a drilling rig beside the river at Kaiapoi was “lawful detention”.
They were eventually handed over to the police, but the Crown case is that in the meantime they had been beaten, tied up, blindfolded, assaulted, questioned, and thrown in the river.
Defence counsel Chris McVeigh QC told the jury that it was “pretty rich” for the Crown to claim that the businessman, David Clemence, had no respect for the law, when its own witnesses were “quite prepared brazenly to break the law”.
Ten charges against Clemence were dropped as his trial moved into its final stages. The 18-charge indictment against him was pared back to eight charges after the Crown and defence had finished their cases today.
Judge Gary MacAskill, who is presiding over the five-day jury trial, had expressed concern about the number of charges.
The charges arise from an incident in Kaiapoi on April 7, 2011.The evidence has been that Clemence was called and attended the scene after the men were caught in the yard by a group of Pasifika men. He eventually took one man to the police station and showed police where to find the other.
The defence has acknowledged that the pair had been assaulted, but alleges they have “dreamed up” their story about the seriousness of the beating and about Clemence’s involvement, in order to get more lenient sentences.
Before the counsel began their closing addresses to the jury, the indictment was reduced to charges of kidnapping each complainant, and three charges of assault for each of them. The assaults relate to kicking and punching, standing on their throat or head, and throwing them in the river.
Judge MacAskill told the jury that the amendment to the indictment would reduce the number of issues they would have to consider to a more manageable level.
Mrs Orchard told the jury that the Crown had decided it would not bother with charges in relation to some aspects of the events that night. It was no longer charging Clemence as a party to the kidnapping, but relied only on his direct actions after he had arrived at the scene and “assumed control”.
She said the detention was unlawful. It was possible to arrest someone found committing a crime, but it did not entitle anyone to keep them to extract information from them, terrorise them, or assault them.
“If you believe these two men, Mr Clemence went way beyond what he was entitled to do that night,” she said.
The said the evidence showed that the two men who were caught were “tough nuts” and urged the jury to think about what must have happened to them to reduce them to the cowed and injured state they were in that night when they were handed over to the police.
She denied that the charges had been laid in bad faith or that evidence had been called to blacken Clemence’s name. She said those accusations amounted to “sledging” by the defence.
She said the jury might feel sympathy and anger for the inconvenience Clemence had been put to by repeated thefts. “I don’t suggest you should not feel that, but you must not act on it.
“You don’t say, ‘They are thieves and ratbags and they deserved what they got, and we simply don’t care’.” The law was there to protect everyone.
Mr McVeigh said the evidence of the two men caught stealing was full of “discrepancies, inconsistencies, and contradictions”. One of them repeatedly became furious when he was caught out while giving evidence.
He said one of the men’s injuries, as reported by a doctor a week later, were not consistent with his claims about the beating he had received. He suggested the men had got together to make up their story about what had happened and their claims had led to them being treated leniently by the court for their own offending. The jury could not rely on their evidence, and should find Clemence not guilty.
The trial will not sit on Friday, and Judge MacAskill will sum up for the jury on Monday morning.