A jury that has to decide whether two cars were illegally racing before a horrific crash that killed four people has been told the blame lies solely at the driver who died.

Dylan Cossey and Stephen John Jones, both 20, have pleaded not guilty in the High Court at Hamilton to four charges of manslaughter by means of illegally racing.

On day five of the trial, the Crown and the pair's lawyers summed up their cases for the jury of five men and seven woman.

The jury were dismissed just before midday, and will return on Monday when Justice Anne Hinton will deliver her closing statement before the jury begins deliberating.

Advertisement

Hamilton woman Hannah Leis Strickett-Craze, 24, Paul De Silva, 20, and Lance Robinson, 28, both of Te Awamutu, and Jason McCormick Ross, 19, of Stratford, were all killed instantly in the crash on June 24, 2016 when it collided with a van, badly injuring the driver. He also gave evidence, but his name was suppressed.

The crash happened on Ohaupo Rd, at the intersection of Ingram Rd, outside Hamilton Airport, on June 24, 2016, when Robinson lost control of his northbound Nissan Skyline and collided with the southbound van.

Cossey and Jones have pleaded not guilty to four charges of manslaughter by unlawfully racing.

The pair also face a charge of operating a motor vehicle in a race or unnecessary exhibition of speed causing injury and failing to stop.

Jones faces an additional charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice at Hamilton on June 28, 2016, after allegedly editing and shortening a film he took as the crash happened.

In closing submissions, Crown prosecutor Duncan McWilliam said the two cars were illegally racing before and at the time of the crash.

He claims the cars were travelling at least at 150km/h when Robinson overtook Cossey and lost control, fishtailing three times before smashing into the van, breaking his Nissan in two.

Jones is charged as being an accessory to the deaths by encouraging Cossey, as he can be heard on video telling Cossey to "go, gap it, gap it".

Advertisement

The Crown also alleged that when Jones pulled out his phone to film the driving he was further encouraging Cossey to go faster.

"The Crown says this was a race between these cars. Races can happen organically, you don't need to pull up alongside each other."

Witnesses had also helped build a picture of what the cars were doing in the minutes before the crash.

"The overall picture you have been given by these people is two cars going at extreme speed, flying past … making people feel physically sick … these are conscious decisions made by both these guys," McWilliam said.

"All of this is a race and racing is illegal, one encouraged by Jones and it caused the deaths of four people."

The Crown claim Jones' video was originally 38 seconds before he cut it down to 11 seconds and giving it to police. When questioned in court, Jones said he trimmed it down to cut out "irrelevant stuff".

Stephen Jones leaves the Hamilton District Court after appearing in December 2016. Photo / File
Stephen Jones leaves the Hamilton District Court after appearing in December 2016. Photo / File

Cossey's lawyer Phil Morgan QC told the jury that what happened south of the airport turn-off, just before the crash was irrelevant.

He admitted his client should have stopped, and should have gone to police earlier and may have played down the speed he was travelling - but he wasn't guilty of manslaughter by racing.

He reminded jurors that Robinson had been drinking and on drugs that night – he was found to be two and a half times the legal breath alcohol limit. He had also been seen speeding off, "tyres screeching", from the Z service station in Te Awamutu before coming across Cossey's vehicle south of the Wild Thyme cafe on SH3.

He urged the jury to focus on the video, which was again played and showed the Nissan overtaking Cossey's car with an occupant yelling 'oh, oh, oh' as a van drove towards it and Robinson putting on the brakes, before the crash.

The video shows that Cossey wasn't trying to make Robinson go faster at the time of the crash and in fact had changed down a gear.

"It's unquestionably the issue that Robinson drove dangerously or recklessly and that he caused the deaths of the deceased. But it's stretching the law too far to say it's Mr Cossey who is guilty of manslaughter."

Jones' lawyer Russell Boot said his client was "merely a passenger in the car" and did nothing more than film the Skyline's overtaking manoeuvre and then give it to police to help them.

"This is a man who has nothing to hide, this is a man who is telling the truth."

He urged the jury to put any feeling of prejudice to one side and sympathy for the victims and said they needed to be objective.

Boot said the blame for deaths lay at the feet of Robinson, who was driving with alcohol, methamphetamine and cannabis in his system.

"It was his decision to drive at the speed he did and his inability to control his motor vehicle. I say it has absolutely nothing to do with the driving of Mr Cossey and in no way was Mr Cossey's driving an operative or substantive cause to the [deaths] and injury."