Yamba riot accused set free
JUBILATION and relief were written on the faces of six adults facing charges over the 2010 Valentines Day Yamba riot.
They walked free from Grafton court yesterday after all but one of the 34 charges were dismissed.
Charges against Craig McNeill, Glen Ayres, Courtney Walker, Dylan McNeill, Robert Harvey and Douglas Pearce, including rioting, malicious damage to property by fire and affray, were dismissed by Magistrate John Andrews after he found police evidence too unreliable to convict the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
A charge against Craig McNeill of not complying with an eight-hour noise abatement order, was proven but dismissed under section 10 as it was his first offence.
Ten adults originally faced charges for their alleged involvement in the riot at a party at the McNeill Yamba residence on February 14 last year.
During the melee, a police paddy wagon and a Holden Commodore station wagon were torched and police vehicles were pelted with bricks, bottles and pavers.
Jay Winter walked free on March 14 when the prosecution conceded he had no case to answer. Charges against Matthew Newell, Jesse Marsden and Jarrod Wilson were dismissed on March 21 after Mr Andrews ruled evidence against them was too unreliable to convict.
In handing down his findings, Mr Andrews questioned why police held a debrief on February 17 before they prepared their statements.
“It is difficult to believe why experienced police officers would undertake a process that would lead to their evidence being criticised by the defence,” he said.
He then went on to question the honesty of police evidence.
“If police are prepared not to be honest in such matters, how can a court be prepared to consider their evidence seriously?” he said.
“There is little doubt that the various police witnesses have collaborated with their evidence.”
A solicitor advising Dylan and Craig McNeill’s defence barristers, Mark Spagnolo, said justice had been done.
“The magistrate found that the police evidence couldn’t be relied upon, that they colluded with their stories, and that they engaged in conduct that was not appropriate for a proper level of policing,” he said.
“In those circumstances he dismissed all the charges against the McNeills and others charged.”
Mr Spagnolo said the McNeills would be taking complaints of assault against police on the night further.
“There have been complaints already made to the NSW ombudsman about an alleged assault on Dylan McNeill,” he said.
Coffs Clarence Superintendent Mark Holahan said police would respect the court’s decision.
“At this time, the court has made a decision ... we respect the decision and its time for us to move forward,” he said.