Crown to seek Red Devils retrial

Last updated 05:00 02/11/2012

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All 21 people targeted in a bungled police sting on the Red Devils bikie gang may face a retrial after the Crown launched appeal proceedings yesterday.

The office of solicitor-general Mike Heron yesterday confirmed moves have begun to overturn the stay of proceedings ordered by Justice Simon France last week.

Justice France ruled that police abused court processes by orchestrating the prosecution of undercover officer "Michael Wiremu Wilson" and by using a fake search warrant. All charges - which included drugs, firearms and gang-related offences - were thrown out.

In the fallout, the stay also led to charges against senior Auckland Hells Angels member Phillip Schubert being thrown out.

Crown solicitors yesterday filed a notice in the High Court at Nelson that initiated the appeal proceedings.

Justice France must now consider whether to refer it to the Court of Appeal. Should he refuse, the Crown can apply directly to the Court of Appeal.

Appeal Court judges could order a retrial - leaving all 21 members and their associates again facing the threat of arrest. However, the possibility of criminal proceedings against police officers has not been ruled out, even though they could be called to appear as witnesses in the appeal.

Legal sources say those offences could include perjury and perverting the course of justice.

As part of the now controversial Operation Explorer, a police undercover agent infiltrated the Red Devils motorcycle club in Nelson using the name Michael Wiremu Wilson.

In 2010 police planted stolen goods and drug-related equipment in his rented lockup, organised a fake search warrant and later arrested him. The operation was directed by the Organised and Financial Crime Agency. Officers wanted to boost his criminal standing because they feared he was under suspicion.

Police believed they had the consent of chief district court judge Russell Johnson, now dead. But Justice France said: "I do not accept that the chief judge and the police were on the same page."

He halted the charges and said police had committed a fraud on the courts.

The operation was headed by Detective Inspector Grant Wormald, who has also faced criticism over the raid on internet tycoon Kim Dotcom's home in January.

Police declined to comment yesterday. In the wake of Justice France's ruling they launched an internal inquiry into undercover operations.

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- Fairfax Media

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