A company which owns a bikie stronghold 100km outside Adelaide has been awarded costs after a landmark legal case to seize the property was dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
But while the Hells Angels would have recouped some of the money spent on prominent barrister Jonathon Wells QC, the DPP avoided having to pay the lions share of the costs.
On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Blue ruled that Disorganized Developments, which owns the Ponde property, were not entitled to “indemnity costs” which would have seen the government footing the entire bill.
Rather, he ordered that costs were to be paid on a standard costs basis which involves a preset scale set by the courts.
In December, prosecutors filed a forfeiture injunction against the 15ha property which has, for more than 40 years, been the club’s untouchable “home away from home”.
They asserted Ponde was “an instrument of crime” because the getaway car used in the murder of Mark Boyce had been buried there, leaving it liable for seizure.
Subsequently, a judge had to disqualify himself from hearing the matter while the club’s lawyers argued the bid was an abuse of the legal process.
In October, the state government abandoned the bid after Director of Public Prosecutions Martin Hinton QC “reassessed the prospects of success and the associated cost”.
The outlaws, meanwhile, reminded the court they had offered to settle the dispute for $10,000 – and insisted that meant the government had to reimburse their legal costs.
A clause of that offer was that Disorganized Development could not be pursued for any “future claim within the scope of the release”.
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Interpreted broadly, as Justice Blue said the offer could be read, the owners of Ponde would be immune from any future attempts to seize the land.
Justice Blue concluded that an offer of $10,000 by Disorganised Developments was not a genuine attempt at a compromise given the benefit they would have received.
“(The agreement) provided a more favourable result to Disorganized Developments in respect of both any future restraining order application and any future forfeiture application,” he said.
Justice Blue also concluded that lawyers for Disorganized Developments had not shown that the company was not aware of the allegedly illegal activity happening at the property.
“In the circumstances, I cannot be satisfied that Disorganized Developments was not involved in any way in the concealing or destruction of evidence,” he said.
“I stress that there is not affirmative evidence that any (of the company’s directors) did so and I make no affirmative finding to that effect.
“However, the onus of proof lies on Disorganized Developments to negate this, and it has not done so.”
In June last year a jury found Joshua Roy Grant guilty of the murder of Mr Boyce.
The verdict, combined with the discovery of a burnt out vehicle, thought to be the getaway vehicle, sparked the audacious attempt to seize the property.