Head Hunters not an organised criminal group - judge

PHOTO/FILE
PHOTO/FILE

The Head Hunters gang is not an organised criminal group, a judge has told the jury trying nine men on kidnap and associated violence charges.

On trial are Benjamin Paul Dwyer, 28, Stephen William Daly, 33, Jordan Alexander Christian, 21, David Peter Clark, 36, Brent Anthony Gunning, 37, Liam John Kane, 24, Matthew John McDonnell, 45, Stacy Walton Dennis Paora, 29, and Sam Wiremu Rolleston 23.

All but Gunning are Head Hunters members and are jointly charged with participating in an organised criminal group to violently extort property from a wealthy businessman in February last year and offences involving his maintenance worker.

Summing up in the High Court at Rotorua yesterday, Justice Timothy Brewer said the Crown's case was that, after a woman had been injured on his boat, the businessman started to receive threats and had property stolen, and this escalated into the matters before the court.

He said it would be quite wrong and unfair for the jury to say "we know what Head Hunters do" and convict the defendants on the strength of that.

Instead, the jurors had to be clinical and use their judgement when they tested whether the Crown had presented proof beyond reasonable doubt on the organised criminal group issue.

"It is not a matter of mathematical certainties," he said. "Maybe, possibly, probably, likely is not good enough."

He warned the 11 jurors not to speculate on the effects methamphetamine might have had on the evidence given by the businessman and his employee. Despite this, their reliability as witnesses would have to be taken into consideration.

The judge said the trial was one where the issue of both visual and voice identity was crucial. The visual identity came from the two alleged victims, and the voice identity from a detective who monitored intercepted cellphone calls allegedly between the defendants.

It was the jury's duty to be sure it could rely on the detective's evidence and that of the two men before it entered convictions on the relevant charges.

Referring to the maintenance worker, the judge said one could be a happy kidnap victim or an unhappy one.

"If he [the maintenance man] knew [the businessman] had been taken away by this group who had come and exerted its control over him, it could have been in his best interests to go along with it, but as a matter of law he was still in some sort of confinement," he said.

Turning to the maintenance man's claim that he had had teaspoons inserted under his eyelids to force him to reveal the businessman's whereabouts, the judge directed that there be no speculation whether this had injured him.

The jury has now retired to consider its verdict.

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