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Animal instinct & quickest ever jury verdict

A few times in my career I’ve had a gut reaction to a situation. On at least two occasions this reaction has certainly saved me from serious injury or even death. I describe it as remarkable chemical reaction that has helped protect humans from imminent and serious danger for 80,000 years. In today’s world in NZ it’s probably not needed very often. However, it still lurks in our DNA waiting to drop adrenalin into your system in a nano second, ignore it at your peril.

Whilst working with some outstanding Detectives, we were tasked with targeting a low level criminal. It involved following him away from an address and completing a 3T turnover (stop & search) using the Misuse of Drugs Act. My partner and I waited down the road from his accommodation for a period of time, before we got the word that he was driving away. We followed him for a short distance and then used our lights and siren to request he park up on the side of the road. I approached the driver, got him out of the car and spoke to him nearby. He told me that he would get his driver’s licence from the car and moved towards the front driver’s door to retrieve it.

This is when the animal instinct kicked in. Something wasn’t right and I could feel the adrenalin being released into my blood stream. No build up, no gentle release, just bang full on adrenalin coursing through my veins. I reacted instantly grabbing the criminal and putting him in a restraining hold, in order to put the handcuffs on him. He struggled somewhat but a well-practiced manoeuvre soon had him in cuffs. I then searched the vehicle and within immediate reach of the front driver’s door I found a loaded sawn-off rifle. That’s what the criminal was going for and his actions caused my instincts to overload me with the life-saving chemical of adrenalin.

Both the low level crim and his girlfriend denied any knowledge of the sawn-off and both were charged with possessing it. His girlfriend pleaded guilty and got 6 months prison. He pleaded not guilty and elected jury trial. It was to be the very first trail for a defence lawyer, whom I’ll call David. He did a pretty good job for the criminal but was faced with the criminal advising that anyone was allowed to drive his car and anyone could have left the sawn-off rifle in it.

Come the end of a one day hearing the jury were sent out to reach a verdict. I walked back with the crown prosecutor to the crown room expecting to have to wait for at least an hour for the verdict. As we got into the crown room the telephone was ringing. It was the court registrar advising that we had a verdict. I could hear puzzlement in the crown prosecutors voice as he asked “are you sure?” We turned around and went back into the court room. Not even 3 minutes had passed since we left it. The jury returned a guilty verdict and the crim was sent away for a sentencing date. (He got 9 months imprisonment).

David our defence counsel looked crestfallen. His first ever trial was over in the blink of an eye. The shortest ever time for a jury verdict – 3 minutes. I invited him to join me for a beer at the Shakespeare Inn for him to commiserate or in my case gloat a little.

We duly arrived at the pub and whilst David shouted the beers (only fair after a loss like that) I went over to another table which most of the jury members were sitting around. The foreman of the jury shook my hand and told me what had happened.

It turned out that the jury had an arms dealer on it. When they got back to the jury room the dealer picked up the rifle, check to see if it was unloaded and then said “this is only good for sticking in someone’s gut and pulling the trigger, what does everyone think.” Each member of the jury said “he’s guilty” and then they spent the next minute debating whether they wanted to wait in the jury room with a cup of tea or go straight out for a beer. The beer won, hence the quickest verdict I’ve ever been involved with.

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