Tow-truck driver wins speedy acquittal in 'joyriding' court case

By Jimmy Ellingham

Michael Donald Woods.
Michael Donald Woods.

It took a jury just 20 minutes to acquit an Auckland tow-truck driver accused of taking an impounded car on an unauthorised high-speed spin.

Michael Donald Woods admitted driving the car after towing it back to his yard for the police in 2012.

Mr Woods, who told APNZ he now goes by the name Michael Holliday, said he took the Nissan Silvia on the road to make sure he hadn't damaged its suspension when he hoisted it on his trailer. He defended a charge of unlawfully taking a motor vehicle on the basis that he had not known he did not have permission to drive it.

After his two-day trial finished in the Auckland District Court yesterday, Mr Woods said the acquittal felt "hollow".

In August 2012, the NZ Transport Agency suspended his licence to operate as a tow-truck driver because it ruled he wasn't a "fit and proper" person, he said.

Mr Woods said the prosecution had been a "set up" and he felt let down by what happened. Asked who had set him up, the 51-year-old said: "It's not hard to put it together".

Mr Woods said he now wanted to focus on patching up his relationship with his family, which had been affected by the charge.

The verdict's speed surprised him and it was still "sinking in" last night.

Early on April 15, 2012, police asked Mr Woods to pick up the impounded car from Mt Wellington.

The Crown initially said he took the car on a "joyride" along streets near his Pakuranga firm, East City Towing, but prosecutor Leo Farmer did not use that term yesterday.

Mr Farmer said Mr Woods was caught out by a GPS tracking device in the impounded car, called a Snitch.

It showed the car hit speeds of up to 113km/h at times on a short trip.

Mr Woods at first told police he followed a carload of boyracers hanging around his yard, with the car still on his truck. He then changed his story and said he drove the car to make sure it wasn't damaged.

Defence lawyer Jeremy Bioletti told the jury Mr Woods did not handle the police interview well, but said people lied for various reasons.

"I just ask you to see it from the point of view of the person themselves," Mr Bioletti said. "That person may see part of his business crumbling before their eyes ..."

- APNZ

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