A notorious Taranaki criminal who escaped a murder conviction in 1992 appears to have again beaten the justice system.
Black Power member Kevin Francis Henare Moore yesterday walked out of the New Plymouth District Court a free man after two victims refused to give evidence.
Moore, 50, along with his son Kevin Francis Moore, 24, and Steven Joseph Johnson, 30, were charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
One of the victims said he had no recall of what happened and the other told authorities he would not give evidence.
In 1992, Moore senior was acquitted of murdering Wanganui Mongrel Mob member Robert Jillings after a witness lied on the witness stand.
He was later jailed for seven years for conspiring to defeat the course of justice.
Justice Doogue commented at his sentencing in 1999 that he "literally got away with murder".
That case led to a change in the double jeopardy law in 2004, allowing retrials where perjury and intimidation of witnesses had been proven.
New Plymouth CIB chief Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Coward said yesterday's aborted trial was a disappointment but understandable because of the stigma attached to gangs.
There was no doubt in police minds that the attack happened, Mr Coward said.
One of the victims had given evidence of the alleged attack at an earlier depositions evidence on September 23, he said.
"Come the day of the hearing and both can't remember anything.
"We believe that the victims refused to recount the story of what happened.
"We appreciate the difficulty people have with regard to giving evidence but we believe it is their public duty to stand up and be counted.
"Police have no doubt that the offences occurred," Mr Coward said.
The three defendants in yesterday's trial had spent seven months in jail awaiting trial after Jeremiah Jackson Awa and Steven Bunyan were allegedly stabbed and hit with children's play equipment outside a house in Bell Block on May 13.
The police summary stated both male victims were left with deep facial cuts and other injuries.
In court yesterday, Mr Awa told Crown prosecutor Justin Marinovich that he was only on the stand because he had been summonsed by police.
Mr Awa said he had been drinking all day on May 13 and had no recall of what had happened at his home.
When Mr Marinovich asked him to read his signed statement, made the day after the attack, Mr Awa did so. He said he could remember none of it.
To frequent challenges by defence counsel, Susan Hughes, QC, for the Moores and Patrick Mooney for Johnson, Mr Marinovich continued to question Mr Awa on his statement.
Even showing him police photos of the meal of eggs and fish fingers that he said he had been cooking on the night did not prompt any recall from Mr Awa.
The second victim, Steven Bunyan, was at court but was not called to the stand after he told authorities he would not give evidence.
Judge Allan Roberts then dismissed the charges after the Crown offered no evidence.
"The matter is at an end," Judge Roberts said.
After the trial, Moore, Moore and Johnson were kissed and hugged by their supporters and moved out of court together in a jubilant mood.
Moore senior is a patched member of Black Power while his son and Johnson are associates, Mr Coward said.
MOORE ACQUITTED BEFORE
In 1992 former New Plymouth Black Power president Kevin Francis Henare Moore and his brother Peter were acquitted of the 1991 murder of Wanganui Mongrel Mob member Robert Raymond Jillings in Glenpark Ave.
The brothers were accused of stabbing the 22-year-old to death in alleged retaliation for the rape of one of their partners and a kill-on-sight policy between the gangs. The trial was disrupted when several crown witnesses either failed to turn up or suffered memory loss when they gave evidence.
A jury later acquitted the pair after a witness lied saying a vital fingerprint which put Moore at the scene of the murder was left there days before while doing a drug deal.
No one has ever been convicted for the murder.
However another former Black Power president, Arthur Garlick, who was in witness protection, told police the witness had lied.
The witness was sent to jail for 15 months after pleading guilty to a charge of perjury in November 1998.
Moore was found guilty of conspiracy to defeat the course of justice and Justice Doogue sentenced him to the maximum of seven years imprisonment saying Moore had "literally got away with murder".Justice Doogue said from the evidence he had read it was inconceivable the jury would not have convicted Moore, and probably his brother, for murder had the true position been known.
The case was the catalyst for a 2004 change to New Zealand's laws of double jeopardy.
COMMENT : JONATHAN McKENZIE-EDITOR
Police need help in court in their fight against crime
Taranaki's top detective is right to call on us today to stand up and be counted.
Quite rightly, Grant Coward is appalled that three criminals have walked free because a couple of weak excuses for men "forgot" the details of their sworn statements.
But as Mr Coward reminds us, there is little police can do if people are not prepared to speak up and testify against the criminals and villains who infect our society.
We shouldn't tolerate this.
If we do, we lose the right to put people like Kevin Moore back where he belongs – behind bars.
Like Mr Coward, we at the Taranaki Daily News take a tough stand on criminals.
- Taranaki Daily News
Who are you most excited to see at Womad?