$3000 fine for kidnapping thieves

00:00, Dec 07 2013
David Clemence
TOO FAR: David Clemence was ruled to have acted excessively in his citizen's arrest of two burglars.

Kaiapoi business owner Dave Clemence has been fined $3000 after being found guilty of kidnapping* two thieves.

Christchurch District Court Judge Gary MacAskill said Clemence acted in disregard of the victims' rights by detaining and delivering to police two thieves who had been caught and beaten by men who were his associates or employees.

He told Clemence: "You took the law into your own hands and did that which the law does not allow. You are to be held accountable for your conduct."

The judge refused the defence bid for a discharge without conviction, and gave Clemence the required first-strike warning about repeat violent offending.

Clemence was described by his defence counsel as "a compassionate, kind, hard-working member of the community".

Chris McVeigh QC told the court he believed Clemence had "showed remarkable restraint" by taking two burglars to the police station when they were caught stealing diesel in one of his yards.

Clemence, the owner of Clemence Drilling, had been found guilty of kidnapping at a Christchurch District Court jury trial in August, but had been acquitted on assault charges.

McVeigh said the Crown conceded it was offending at the low end of the scale but pointed to three aggravating features, including the use of the word vigilanteeism, which was a "loaded" word.

He had taken the offenders to the police station and phoned police when he found no-one there.

He asked the court to accept that no medical treatment was required, because the police did not provide any.

Clemence could not be accused of failing to assist the two offenders, as the Crown suggested.

The Crown had alleged that a group of men at the Clemence Drilling yard bound, beat, and dunked the two men in the river after catching them in the yard.

There were no victim impact statements from the two men, presumably because they had not wished to co-operate.

It was evident that Clemence had been entitled to make a citizens arrest but his delivery of the offenders to the police was not "sufficiently contemporaneous enough".

It had happened at a time when his plant and equipment was under threat from criminal activities such as thefts and vandalism, when he was working to provide Christchurch and surrounding areas with a water supply post-quake. He described that a strong mitigating factor.

Crown prosecutor Deidre Orchard said people at the yard - where the beating occurred - had obviously been employees, and so he had some responsibility for what they did, and it gave a flavour to his subsequent actions.

Judge MacAskill said the two men who said they were detained and beaten had lost their credibility in giving their evidence.

They had been battered and bruised, but they may have exaggerated the extent of the violence. The judge said the jury had rejected the defence that the detention was justified.

He said Clemence was highly regarded in the community and had a reputation for being loyal, kind, caring and considerate.

He considered the submission that being unable to travel to other countries would affect Clemence's business.

"Everyone must remember that offending has consequences including putting at risk access to other countries."

* An earlier version of this story used the phrase 'citizens' arrest'. However, this defence was rejected by the court.


The Press