AC/DC drummer's appeal succeeds

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Phil Rudd during an appeal for his drug conviction inside the Tauranga District Court. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Phil Rudd during an appeal for his drug conviction inside the Tauranga District Court. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd has had his cannabis conviction quashed on the grounds that it would have stopped him from continuing to tour with the rock band.

Rudd, 56, fought to have his conviction for possession of marijuana wiped from his record when he appeared in Tauranga District Court under his legal name of Phillip Hugh Witschke yesterday.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer pleaded guilty to the charge and was fined $250 in December after failing in his bid for a discharge without conviction.

His lawyer, Craig Tuck, argued at the time that the consequences of a conviction outweighed the gravity of his client's crime.

The charge came after police searched Witschke's launch, moored at Tauranga Bridge Marina, on October 7 and found 25g of cannabis onboard.

At yesterday's hearing, Mr Tuck said his client had been a member of AC/DC, an enterprise which required him to travel extensively around the globe, for most of his adult life.

Mr Tuck said if the conviction was to stand it would have a significant impact on his client's ability to travel overseas to pursue his professional life and his other business interests.

The drug conviction restricted his ability to enter some countries, particularly Japan, Canada and United States.

Mr Tuck urged Judge Wills to discharge his client without conviction saying it was a "fair and just outcome" given that he had no previous drug convictions and only two traffic matters on his record dating back to 1986 and 1987.

"My client may be 56 but he is as motivated to be involved in the industry as he ever was ... I ask you to allow him to continue his stellar career," he said.

When Witschke was asked whether he was likely to want to tour in the future and continue to play and make music, he said: "For as long as I'm still alive."

Crown prosecutor Hayley Sheridan opposed the application.

She accepted his drug conviction could be a barrier for him to overcome in terms of entry to some countries, but said there was no direct evidence of an absolute bar or evidence of future plans for the band to tour.

Under cross-examination by Mrs Sheridan, Witschke said he could not say if the band would do another international tour in the next five years.

However, he did a lot of travelling on promotional tours for new albums, shows, rehearsals, photo and video shoots and award ceremonies.

Judge Alayne Wills said the evidence was clear that Witschke would be refused an entry visa or have difficulty gaining entry to at least three countries that the band normally travelled to.

That meant his role in the band and the roles of other band members and other people who relied on him would be compromised.

Judge Wills said when balanced against the gravity of the offending - which she assessed as at the "lower end of scale" - she was satisfied the appeal should be granted. The judge discharged Witschke without conviction subject to him paying $1500 to cover the prosecution's legal costs.

Outside the courthouse a weary-looking Mr Rudd told the Bay of Plenty Times that he was "relieved" but declined to make any further comment.

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