Judge Slates Drummer and Dismisses Charge
A Tauranga judge has dismissed a charge against AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd – but not before saying he’d never fly with him.
Phil Rudd, 59, spent Monday in a defended hearing in Tauranga District Court on a Civil Aviation Act charge of failing to disclose his drug use after marking “No” to the question in a medical application form for his class two private pilot’s licence to fly his own helicopter.
Through his lawyer Paul Mabey, QC, Rudd admitted flying his helicopter during training sessions on five occasions during the alleged offence period of August 3, 2012, and April 30, 2012, which also included one solo flight.
CAA’s prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch claimed the denial of drug use was a deliberate attempt to mislead the CAA so that he could obtain his helicopter pilot’s licence.
But, delivering his decision in the Tauranga District Court yesterday, Judge Louis Bidios said it was “very, very suspicious that Mr Rudd answered the question falsely”, but the question itself was also not explicitly clear.
However, despite dismissing the charge, Judge Bidois was critical of Rudd during his time in the witness box.
“He struck me as being someone whose attention span was limited, who was easily distracted and who could easily get confused because he didn’t listen . . . the cause of these characteristics is not known but the possibility of long-term drug use could be a factor.
“Mr Rudd was not a convincing witness . . . overall he wasn’t impressive and should stick to drumming.”
Judge Bidois noted that due to those apparent personality traits “I wouldn’t want Mr Rudd to be the pilot (of a helicopter) that I was in”.
As to the charge, Judge Bidois accepted there appeared to be a “disconnect” in the question and whether it could be interpreted that someone “has” used drugs or “has ever” used drugs.
Judge Bidois said just two years before completing the form Rudd admitted smoking cannabis since he was 18 and accepted that cannabis was illegal, “therefore on the face of it the answer is wrong”.
He said that drug use “should have been uppermost in his mind” when completing the form.
Judge Bidois said a clause of the charge was that the CAA had to prove that Rudd acted intentionally to mislead them.
He said the form itself had some shortcomings, specifically that the question around drug use should be set out in a separate section and broken up into “legal” and “illegal” drugs.
In the end, Judge Bidois said there was a reasonable possibility that Rudd was telling the truth but he wasn’t convinced either way and only had his suspicion which wasn’t enough to convict him.
At the start of Monday’s hearing, Rudd admitted one charge of failing to maintain a pilot’s logbook for which he was yesterday convicted and fined $750 plus court costs and solicitor’s costs of $150.