Stabbed shop owner wants apology from police

Liquor store owner Virender Singh says he'd like an apology from police for charging him when he fought back after being attacked at his store last year.

Singh no longer faces the prospect of a trial on two charges of injuring with intent after two justices of the peace ruled at a depositions hearing yesterday that the evidence against him was too conflicting and contradictory.

The charges were laid following an attempted robbery at Singh's Gilbert Rd liquor store in Otara on September 30 last year, where he lashed out with a hockey stick after being stabbed by a youth.

Police alleged Singh hit Enrique Panui with a hockey stick while he was face down on the ground with Singh's nephew sitting on him, and that he hit Damien Manuel while he was trying to get to the store to help Panui.

Singh said he acted in self-defence. He didn't hit either Mr Panui or Mr Manuel but a knife-wielding youth who stabbed him and threw the knife at his chest.

Police yesterday defended the decision to charge Singh, saying they did so following a comprehensive investigation, but they respected the decision of the court.

"Charges laid were based upon the best evidence acquired during the investigation and upon consultation with police prosecutions service," a police spokeswoman said.

Singh said police hadn't contacted him since yesterday's outcome but that he would like an apology.

The decision delighted other South Auckland shop owners, some of whom had been the victims of robberies themselves.

"This is encouraging kids who see 'look, Mr Singh is in the court for hitting the customer', dairy owner Hurmant Kumar, who was robbed at knifepoint this month for milk, nappies and biscuits, told Radio New Zealand.

"He was not hitting the customer, he was hitting the robber."

Singh was the second client of his lawyer Greg King in the past three years whose case did not go to trial after justices of the peace ruled there was no case to answer.

Two years ago JPs threw out a charge of unlawfully possessing a gun laid against Auckland gunshop worker Greg Carvell, who shot a man who threatened to kill him with a metre-long machete in the gunshop in 2006.

Retailers Association president John Albertson said he would be concerned if retailers started arming themselves.

"We've got to be careful that we don't provoke an even greater level of violence than we're getting at the moment, which is a hard thing to say if you're sitting there and you've just been beaten up by somebody who's come in to rob your store," he told Radio New Zealand.

Singh, who will be back behind the counter of his store today, said he would be auctioning his hockey stick and giving the proceeds to charity.

He agreed other shopkeepers might be bolder in dealing with offenders, but Mr King said the decision should not be taken as a licence for shop owners to take unwarranted retribution.

"If anybody read that sort of precedent into this they would be making a big, big mistake. The first thing you do is phone the police if you can. The second thing you do is you run away if you can. The third thing you do, if you have to, is do whatever it takes to protect yourself and your family.

"Self-defence applies when a person takes reasonable steps to protect themselves or their family or their premises from a risk as they perceive it."

Mr King said the case had been enormously stressful for Singh.

"The guy was stabbed in front of his wife and his nine-year-old daughter in an extremely difficult situation.

"His nephew had his hand cut. His neighbour in the shop next door had her face smashed open with a piece of wood. Her husband had died three months beforehand, who is my client's best friend.

"To find himself at the end of that being charged and having to come to court with all the stress that that involves, it has been a very difficult time for him."