Hitman charge against AC/DC drummer dropped
AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd is no longer facing a charge of attempting to procure a murder.
A spokeswoman for Tauranga Crown Solicitor Greg Hollister-Jones confirmed the charge had been withdrawn after Rudd's lawyer, Paul Mabey QC, issued a statement announcing the sensational U-turn by authorities.
Rudd, 60, appeared in court yesterday after police raided his home in Tauranga.
He was accused of attempting to hire one person to kill two others, and of threatening to kill another.
He was also charged with possession of methamphetamine and cannabis.
Mr Mabey said: "I was advised by the Crown Solicitor Hollister-Jones that he had reviewed the police file and the available evidence to support the charge of attempting to procure murder.
"He had formed the view that there was insufficient evidence to justify that charge. He has now withdrawn the charge."
Mr Mabey added: "The charge ... should never have been laid. The Crown Solicitors opinion was not sought. The charge is now withdrawn - within 24 hours of Mr Rudd's first appearance in court."
He said his client had "suffered unnecessary and extremely damaging publicity as a result of widespread and sensational reporting of a very serious allegation, which on any basis was never justified".
"The damage to Mr Rudd is incalculable. Questions arise as to the degree of care taken by those responsible for arresting and charging him with attempting to procure murder."
Rudd still faces the remaining charges, and could face a maximum of seven years if convicted of threatening to kill.
He has been remanded on bail until November 27 when he will reappear in court. His bail conditions include that he lives at his Bureta home.
Yesterday, the drummer refused to speak with gathered media as he pulled away from the court in a late-model soft-top Mercedes, driven by a woman who had watched the court proceedings from the public gallery.
Rudd's two-storey home yesterday remained under guard by security contractors, who were running errands for him and keeping people away from the property.
A resident told the Herald yesterday he was shocked to have arrived home from work to learn what his friendly next-door neighbour had been charged with. "I know Phil, he's a good neighbour ... we'll chat about any old thing.
"I even see him out mowing the lawn for the elderly lady next door, so he's a pretty down-to-earth guy."
Biographer Jesse Fink, author of the new book, The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, told the Daily Mail yesterday he was "stunned, absolutely stunned" when he was made aware of the charges.
Australian-born Rudd has lived in Tauranga for a number of years. He first moved to New Zealand in 1983 after being sacked by the band, but hooked up with the band again in 1994.
Rudd was absent from some promotional material and photographs for AC/DC's 16th studio album, Rock or Bust, which will be released in Australia on November 28.
The full press release:
Paul Mabey QC on behalf of Phillip Rudd
Mr Rudd appeared in Court yesterday charged with Attempting to Procure Murder, and also Threatening to Kill, Possession of Cannabis and Possession of Methamphetamine.
Some members of the media published his name, together with details of those charges, before Mr Rudd appeared in Court.
When Mr Rudd appeared in Court, he was photographed. He was bailed to return at a later date.
As a result of his appearance he has received worldwide publicity focusing upon the allegation of Attempting to Procure Murder.
The decision to charge Mr Rudd was made by the New Zealand Police without consultation with the Tauranga Crown Solicitor.
I am engaged to represent Mr Rudd on instructions from his solicitor, Karen Gravatt, of Sharp Tudhope Solicitors, Tauranga. I met today with the Tauranga Crown Solicitor and Senior Members of the Police.
I was advised by the Crown Solicitor, Mr Hollister-Jones, that he had reviewed the Police file and the available evidence to support the charge of Attempting to Procure Murder. He had formed the view that there was insufficient evidence to justify that charge. He has now withdrawn the charge.
Mr Rudd will defend the charge of Threatening to Kill. Charges relating to any personal possession of drugs are minor.
The charge alleging an Attempt to Procure Murder should never have been laid. The Crown Solicitors opinion was not sought. The charge is now withdrawn - within twenty four hours of Mr Rudd's first appearance in Court.
Mr Rudd has suffered unnecessary and extremely damaging publicity as a result of widespread and sensational reporting of a very serious allegation, which on any basis was never justified.
The damage to Mr Rudd is incalculable. Questions arise as to the degree of care taken by those responsible for arresting and charging him with Attempting to Procure Murder.
Citizens are entitled to a responsible exercise of the power to charge which, as is proved here, can give rise to potentially irreversible damage if that power is not exercised responsibly.
Mr Rudd is considering any possible remedies he may have.
Paul Mabey QC