UPDATED: The man police claimed AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd tried to hire to kill two people is pleased the charge of attempting to procure a murder has been withdrawn against the rock star.
A spokeswoman for Tauranga Crown Solicitor Greg Hollister-Jones confirmed this afternoon the charge had been withdrawn after Rudd's lawyer, Paul Mabey QC, issued a statement announcing the sensational U-turn by authorities.
Rudd, 60, appeared in court yesterday after police raided his home in Tauranga. He was accused of attempting to hire one person to kill two others, and of threatening to kill another. He was also charged with possession of methamphetamine and cannabis.
Mr Mabey said: "I was advised by the Crown Solicitor Hollister-Jones that he had reviewed the police file and the available evidence to support the charge of attempting to procure murder. He had formed the view that there was insufficient evidence to justify that charge. He has now withdrawn the charge."
This afternoon, the man who was named in court documents as the "intended hitman" told the Herald he believed the matter had blown out of proportion. He described himself as a "family man" - not a hitman - and said it was "good" the charges were dropped.
But he did not blame police, who he said were just doing their job.
The man questioned whether any suggestion of a murder plot by Mr Rudd, whom he considered a friend but had not spoken with since charges were laid yesterday, was simply "hot air". He was leaving town this afternoon and could not say when he would return.
A spokeswoman for the Crown said today the decision to lay charges was a matter for the police.
READ PAUL MABEY'S FULL STATEMENT AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE
However, Mr Mabey said the charge "should never have been laid. The Crown Solicitors opinion was not sought. The charge is now withdrawn - within 24 hours of Mr Rudd's first appearance in court."
He said his client had "suffered unnecessary and extremely damaging publicity as a result of widespread and sensational reporting of a very serious allegation, which, on any basis, was never justified".
Security staff watch the entrance to Rudd's home. Photo / John Borren
"The damage to Mr Rudd is incalculable. Questions arise as to the degree of care taken by those responsible for arresting and charging him with attempting to procure murder."
When asked by the Herald about the U-turn, Crown spokeswoman Jan Fulstow said: "It is a matter for the police. The police do not have to come to the Crown to seek permission to lay charges. The police make decisions on charges etc having regard for the evidence that they have.
"Whether or not someone is high profile makes no difference, it is a matter for the police."
While police did not need permission from the Crown to lay a charge, they had to be confident that they had a case strong enough against an alleged offender to pass the test required under the Solicitor-General's prosecution guidelines.
Police said this afternoon: "After a first appearance in court (Rudd) was bailed to reappear on 27 November. In matters of this nature the Crown Solicitor then becomes responsible for the prosecution.
"Today the Crown reviewed the charges and made the decision to withdraw the charge of attempting to procure murder. Other charges remain before the court."
Police refused to answer questions about their decision to charge Rudd and whether they stood by it. They also refused to say whether they regret not seeking Crown advice before arresting Rudd, or any distress the withdrawn charge caused him.
They would not say whether they were reviewing the decision to charge Rudd with attempting to procure murder, or the handling of the case in general.
Mr Hollister-Jones' office confirmed that after Rudd's appearance in court, the Crown Solicitor's office became responsible for his prosecution.
"The file was obtained today and reviewed. Mr Hollister-Jones made the decision that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the charge of attempting to procure a murder. The police and counsel for Mr Rudd were advised of the decision.
"No further comment can be because there are three other charges before the court."
Rudd still faces the remaining charges, and could face a maximum of seven years if convicted of threatening to kill.
He has been remanded on bail until November 27 when he will reappear in court. His bail conditions include that he lives at his Bureta home.
Rudd leaves yesterday, driven by a blonde woman. He was also charged with drugs possession. Photo / George Novak
Yesterday, the drummer refused to speak with gathered media as he pulled away from the court in a late-model soft-top Mercedes, driven by a woman who had watched the court proceedings from the public gallery.
Rudd's two-storey home yesterday remained under guard by security contractors, who were running errands for him and keeping people away from the property.
A resident told the Herald yesterday he was shocked to have arrived home from work to learn what his friendly next-door neighbour had been charged with. "I know Phil, he's a good neighbour ... we'll chat about any old thing.
"I even see him out mowing the lawn for the elderly lady next door, so he's a pretty down-to-earth guy."
Biographer Jesse Fink, author of the new book, The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, told the Daily Mail yesterday he was "stunned, absolutely stunned" when he was made aware of the charges.
Australian-born Rudd has lived in Tauranga for a number of years. He first moved to New Zealand in 1983 after being sacked by the band, but hooked up with the band again in 1994.
Phil Rudd, pictured earlier this year in Tauranga, has been a resident of New Zealand since the early Eighties. Photo / George Novak
Rudd was absent from some promotional material and photographs for AC/DC's 16th studio album, Rock or Bust, which will be released in Australia on November 28.
Full press release: Paul Mabey QC on behalf of Phillip Rudd
Mr Rudd appeared in Court yesterday charged with Attempting to Procure Murder, and also Threatening to Kill, Possession of Cannabis and Possession of Methamphetamine.
Some members of the media published his name, together with details of those charges, before Mr Rudd appeared in Court.
When Mr Rudd appeared in Court, he was photographed. He was bailed to return at a later date.
As a result of his appearance he has received worldwide publicity focusing upon the allegation of Attempting to Procure Murder.
The decision to charge Mr Rudd was made by the New Zealand Police without consultation with the Tauranga Crown Solicitor.
I am engaged to represent Mr Rudd on instructions from his solicitor, Karen Gravatt, of Sharp Tudhope Solicitors, Tauranga. I met today with the Tauranga Crown Solicitor and Senior Members of the Police.
I was advised by the Crown Solicitor, Mr Hollister-Jones, that he had reviewed the Police file and the available evidence to support the charge of Attempting to Procure Murder. He had formed the view that there was insufficient evidence to justify that charge. He has now withdrawn the charge.
Mr Rudd will defend the charge of Threatening to Kill. Charges relating to any personal possession of drugs are minor.
The charge alleging an Attempt to Procure Murder should never have been laid. The Crown Solicitors opinion was not sought. The charge is now withdrawn -- within twenty four hours of Mr Rudd's first appearance in Court.
Mr Rudd has suffered unnecessary and extremely damaging publicity as a result of widespread and sensational reporting of a very serious allegation, which on any basis was never justified.
The damage to Mr Rudd is incalculable. Questions arise as to the degree of care taken by those responsible for arresting and charging him with Attempting to Procure Murder.
Citizens are entitled to a responsible exercise of the power to charge which, as is proved here, can give rise to potentially irreversible damage if that power is not exercised responsibly.
Mr Rudd is considering any possible remedies he may have.
Paul Mabey QC NZME.