Kaiapoi business owner David Clemence went just one step too far when he made citizen's arrests for two men caught stealing from his company's yard.
That's the interpretation being placed on the jury's verdicts at the end of the sixth day of the Christchurch District Court trial before Judge Gary MacAskill.
The jury rejected all of the evidence of the bashings, kickings, and dunking in the river that the jury had heard from the two men, Matthew Darryl Pender-McLean, aged 20 at the time, and Carl Edward Clark, 23.
They found Clemence not guilty of all the assaults and the assaults with intent to injure. They either rejected the men's claims of being beaten for hours and dunked in the river with their hands tied, or they decided it was not unlawful.
But they also found that Clemence had unlawfully detained the two men - kidnapped them.
The likely interpretation therefore is that Clemence detained the men too long when he should have been just handing them over to the police for arrest by the authorities.
He is allowed to detain people found committing crimes - making a citizen's arrest - but he has to hand them over as soon as practicable.
And in this case, Clemence took a detour instead of taking Pender straight to the police station.
Instead, after loading him into his car, he made the young man show him the two Kaiapoi addresses where he and Clark were living.That meant a bit of a drive around Kaiapoi, with a view to visiting the houses next day to try to find property that had been stolen earlier. That was done. Clemence and the group of Pasifika men who caught the pair turned up at the addresses and effectively searched them.
But the detour has given the jury grounds to find that the detention was unlawful, and kidnapping charges carry serious penalties.
Even so, Judge MacAskill asked for a report to be prepared on Clemence's suitability for home detention ahead of his sentencing on December 4.
The jury's decisions to reject the assaults for the two men - a pair with significant criminal records - may set guidelines for other citizens who decide to act against repeated losses to thefts.
It means that Clemence's efforts in catching the pair were lawful, even to them getting their hands tied with cable ties. But once an arrest is made, miscreants have to be delivered straight to the police and jail - no passing 'Go' will be allowed.
The two thieves have since pleaded guilty to burglary charges and have been sentenced. Pender got home detention, and Clark got community work.
Clemence is on bail awaiting sentence.
The jury returned its verdicts after coming back to court to ask questions, and after receiving a majority verdict direction. It deliberated for about 11 hours since Monday morning.
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