Four men, including two apparently high-ranking bikies, have been acquitted of their alleged involvement in 2019 NSW South Coast public shootings, and a judge has allowed most of them to make claims for their legal fees.
It was alleged that in 2018, a man given the pseudonym ‘Echo’ moved to the Batemans Bay area and began associating with two members of the Nomads.
These two would go on to face trial along with two others who weren’t alleged to be in the outlaw motorcycle gang.
Around September 2019, it was alleged that an ex-member of another gang, the Rebels, owed an unpaid debt to a member of the Nomads, and as a result, the Nomads stole one of his motorbikes.
“This was the impugned catalyst for the defendants’ criminal activity,” Judge Michael McHugh SC wrote in a decision from Friday (9 February).
That December, members of the Rebels apparently went to the home of one of Echo’s family members to look for him. It was alleged the first of the Nomads then gave the “green light” for retaliation and arranged for shotgun ammunition, which was referred to as “cabbage”, to be delivered to the other.
A group then allegedly drove to the suburban home of a Rebels member in the Batemans Bay region and fired several rounds of shotgun pellets at it, then drove to the home of another of the Rebels and fired shotgun rounds at it, too.
Afterwards, this group came across a man and his friends, and one of them allegedly hit the man in the face with the butt of a gun.
But after a trial in the NSW District Court, the four men were acquitted of all charges against them.
“I have no doubt the jury would have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the shootings, the intimidatory conduct, and the assault occurred; the evidence clearly showed they did – the question is by whom,” Judge McHugh said.
Due to their acquittals, the men asked to be allowed to apply for their legal costs, arguing that as Echo, who had been the Crown’s key witness, was so “very substantially lacking in credit”, it was not reasonable for them to have been prosecuted.
Echo, who had become a nominee of the Nomads for a short time, would go on to be arrested for his connections to drug dealing in the Batemans region and was handed a jail sentence that was reduced, in part, by the assistance he would provide over the shootings.
But a defence lawyer said Echo had given three conflicting versions of the shootings and was regularly using and dealing drugs into 2020 with the knowledge of police.
Judge McHugh said Echo admitted to having been a habitual liar and had estimated he would lie about “20 per cent” of the time to his customers when dealing drugs. Also, he admitted to defrauding the Red Cross by submitting fictitious applications for emergency funds after the 2019-2020 Black Summer Bushfires.
Judge McHugh ultimately declined to grant one of the four men his legal costs, saying a number of pieces of evidence had tied him to the allegations, while one of the alleged bikies was allowed to apply for costs for one of his charges.
The prosecution had relied on Echo’s evidence for the other alleged bikie and the fourth man. Judge McHugh found this witness’s credibility was poor and there ought to have been more evidence to support his allegations.
He allowed these two to apply for costs on all their charges and certified that if the prosecution had all the facts before the proceedings started against the pair, it would not have been reasonable to institute them.
The names of the four men and Echo have been legally suppressed.