A CRIMINAL case against a Nelson gang has been thrown out by a judge after finding police seriously abused the court process.
Police had been investigating the Red Devils Motorcycle Club, in which an undercover officer was arrested and sent through the court process.
It came to light after 21 people arrested in the sting were charged with a number of offences, including participating in an organised criminal group.
The officer had immersed himself in the gang, but they become suspicious of him.
In May 2010, police set up a fake drug bust using a fake search warrant to arrest him.
The information was given to the Chief District Court judge, but never passed on to the presiding judge, or the lawyer acting for the agent, both of whom treated it like a normal case.
In a High Court ruling, Justice France said police seriously abused the court process, lacked insight and were reckless.
Fake search warrants appeared to come from a judicial officer, false charges and the swearing of a false oath were issued, among other abuses of the court process.
The Justice said police didn’t mean to mislead the court, the ruse was a misunderstanding of the role of the court and its independence.
The 21 people accused have had their prosecutions stayed, and the judge said elements of criminal offences may have been committed by the police.
It was up to others to decide if charges should be laid.
Steven Rollo, a lawyer who represented the gang members, told Radio NZ his clients did not pose a risk to the public.
The police action was not justified.
“The allegations that they faced were nowhere near at the serious end of the scale. I don’t think that the people of Nelson have anything to worry about these people, bearing in mind they’ve lived happily in Nelson – many of them all of their lives – without incident.”