26th October 2010
QUESTIONS have been raised about the validity of a police warrant used in what has become known as the Valentine’s Day Riots in Yamba this year.
Yesterday was the first day of what is expected to be a three-week Local Court trial of 10 adult males charged with riot and a number of other offences in the early hours of February 14 this year when a police car was destroyed by fire, another allegedly pelted with bricks, pavers and other missiles, and a second car burnt out.
Those facing charges yesterday were: Glen Leigh Ayres, Roberty Harvey, Jesse Marsden, Craig McNeill, Dylan McNeill, Matthew Newell, Douglas Pearce, Jarrod Wilson, Jay Winter and Courtney Walker.
They are charged with offences including: riot, incite to assault police officers in execution of their duty, affray, maliciously damaging property by fire, and malicious damage.
Charges against a number of juveniles allegedly involved will be heard later.
Prosecutor Bob Hanzic said the main charge would be riot, with most of the other charges as back up.
Solicitor for one of the men, Peter O’Connor, questioned whether the observations of police at the scene were obtained legally.
He said police had no authority to be on the premises or in the area where the events were said to have occurred.
He said the events of the night arose out of the illegality of police entering private land when they had been asked to leave.
He asked that the court consider the legality of the warrant before proceeding to other evidence.
However, Mr O’Connor said evidence would be presented to show the entrance to the party site was open to public use and there was a sign directing people to use a common driveway.
He said a police vehicle destroyed by fire on the night was on the common driveway and that the court should consider the legality of the warrant during the course of the hearings.
Magistrate John Andrews said he would consider the warrant during the hearings.
Yesterday had one of the strongest legal presences at the Grafton court for years with, at times, close to 20 legal representatives for the prosecution and defence in the court in addition to the magistrate and regular court staff.
Little evidence was presented apart from that of two crime scene officers.
Lismore officer Senior Constable Malcolm Sutherland tendered a statement and 31 photos taken from the scene. He also presented an audio visual walk through of the crime scene.
He submitted four items into evidence: a bag containing a paving brick, a second bag containing a paver, a square block of concrete and 35 assorted alcohol bottles and cans.
He said all had been collected from around the crime scene.
During his video walk through of the scene he alleged broken pavers at the scene had been thrown at the police vehicle.
It also showed a large dent in another police vehicle he alleged had occurred when the vehicle had been hit with a ‘Besser’ block.
Another crime scene officer, Coffs Harbour’s Scott Gane, submitted a five-page statement and 16 photos that went without cross examination.
The trial continues today.