Acquittal in drugs robbery trial

A jury took 75min to reject the Crown allegation that a 26-year-old man was part of a dramatic drug-deal robbery in which an axe was used to smash up a car.

Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders discharged Jamal John Rangi Apataria Couling at the end of the three-day trial, after the jury returned its not guilty verdict.

Couling had denied he was one of three offenders who robbed a woman in a street in Woolston after a drug deal went sour late one night in June 2017.

The victim gave evidence of windows in her car being smashed by a 15-year-old girl with an axe while the victim was still inside. She then claimed Couling had partly dragged her out the car door and he and another youth had taken her money.

The two youth offenders have been dealt with on armed robbery charges in the Youth Court, but Couling denied being part of the robbery.

He gave evidence at the trial, saying he did not know what was going to happen, did not know the others had taken the victim’s cash, and his only role had been yell at the girl to try to stop the axe attack taking place.

Defence counsel Tony Garrett said the events had unfolded as a “sudden explosion” in a murky world of drug dealing where things happened quickly. The jury’s consideration would centre on the credibility of those giving evidence, he suggested.

After the jury had been discharged, Judge Saunders told Couling he hoped his life would now progress well. He noted Couling was doing well after taking up full time work away from Christchurch.