A man who served two years in jail for blackmail has had his
conviction quashed because he was not allowed to give
evidence in his own defence.
Richie Stuart Clutterbuck was sentenced to two years and nine
months in jail for his part in the blackmail of a farmer.
The farmer had hidden money on his farm for one of Mr
Clutterbuck's co-accused, but the money went missing.
Mr Clutterbuck and three others were charged with blackmail
after the farmer claimed he was threatened into registering a
caveat over his property for $100,000 for the purpose of
repaying the money.
At his trial last year, Mr Clutterbuck elected not to give
evidence in front of the jury, then changed his mind and
asked the judge for permission to testify.
He changed his mind after the point in the proceedings when
the absolute right to testify is lost, and it can only be
done with permission from the judge.
The judge refused permission for reasons including that many
of the matters Mr Clutterbuck wished to raise were
inadmissible, and his evidence may have prejudiced a fair
trial for his co-accused and may have led to a mistrial.
Mr Clutterbuck's counsel, who took over the case after his
original counsel died before the hearing, told the court he
would not be able to lead Mr Clutterbuck's evidence.
The Court of Appeal's decision said the judge erred in not
allowing Mr Clutterbuck to testify.
The decision given by Justice Simon France said while there
was sympathy for the judge's concerns regarding a mistrial,
the same situation would have existed if Mr Clutterbuck had
exercised his absolute right to testify earlier in the
The Court found that denying his request to give evidence was
a miscarriage of justice, and the conviction was quashed.
The Crown did not seek a retrial, as Mr Clutterbuck had
already served two years of his sentence, and his co-accused
had already served their sentences and had been released.