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Head Hunters’ pokie machines notebook is an admissible business record, court finds

16 Jun 2023

| Author: Fiona Wu

Application to admit hearsay statement – definition of business record –Evidence Act 2006, s 19 – definitive identity of author not essential to determination – Commissioner of Police v Vincent Keshvara v Blanchett – general reliability and prejudice concerns – Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009

Commissioner of Police v Richardson [2022] NZHC 2864 per Dunningham J

The Commissioner of Police applies for civil forfeiture orders under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 in respect of, amongst other things, a house at Vickerys Road, Christchurch, which is the clubhouse of the Head Hunters Motorcycle Club gang (Head Hunters).

As part of the application, the commissioner sought to admit as evidence a notebook containing handwritten entries of what appears to be income and expenditure from clubhouse pokie machines. The likely author of the notebook,with all due diligence, could not be found to attend court as a witness.

The commissioner submitted the notebook is admissible as a business record, which falls within the exception to the rule against hearsay evidence under s 19 of the Evidence Act 2006. The notebook related to the operation of three functional pokie machines located in the clubhouse and was intended to be a reliable record of relevant financial transactions. The commissioner also pointed to separate evidence to show the Head Hunters generally kept accurate financial records.

The respondents, who are directors of the property’s registered corporate owner, suggested the notebook was fundamentally different in character from business records such as bank statements, which are admissible because they “speak for themselves”, whereas interpreting the entries in the notebook would involve “guesswork”.

The court found the notebook did fall within the definition of a business record. In reaching that conclusion, Dunningham J pointed to evidence from other witnesses associated with the gang,which spoke to the need to keep careful and accurate financial records, as an indication of the likely reliability of the records in the notebook. The courtrejected the respondents’ suggestion the records were too opaque for proper interpretation.

There was prima facie only one logical way to read the records in the notebook, and it was open to the respondents connected with the Head Hunters to offer a credible alternative interpretation, should they wish to do so.

Held:  The notebook is admissible in evidence as a business record, and closing submissions could proceed on the basis it was in evidence.


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