Adelaide bikies seek High Court appeal to challenge convictions for club member’s near-fatal bashing

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TWO Adelaide bikies involved in the near-fatal bashing of a fellow gang member have launched High Court action to challenge their convictions.

The pair — Bozidar Cekic and Dean Ciantar — is seeking special leave to appeal their convictions and have hired high-profile silks Michael Abbott and Marie Shaw to argue their case.

The two were among five former Finks bikies convicted over the brutal bashing of gang member Charlie Bonnici in February 13, 2013 at the Salisbury clubrooms of the Finks’ northern chapter.

Bonnici suffered shocking injuries that included minor brain damage, broken facial bones, a broken jaw, 13 broken ribs, a broken arm and internal injuries that required the removal of his gallbladder and appendix after being assaulted with pool cues, a vacuum cleaner and a table.

In March last year after a trial by Judge alone, Chief Justice Chris Kourakis convicted the five men.

In August he sentenced them, with Cekic receiving a 10-year-and-four-month sentence and Ciantar a nine-year sentence with a six-year-and-two-month non-parole period.

The five bikies subsequently appealed their convictions and in March this year the Full Court of the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed their appeal.

High Court documents reveal the application for special leave by Cekic and Ciantar revolves around the use of a notebook and pages torn from it found at the Thebarton clubrooms of the Finks’ central chapter the day of the incident.

It contained entries detailing a dispute between the central and northern chapters of the gang and references to “Charlie’’. The document was used as circumstantial evidence in the trial as a motive for the attack on Bonnici.

An image tendered to court during the trial showing police evidence markers at the clubrooms after the bashing.

Bozidar Cekic outside District Court.

“The learned trial judge’s reliance on a finding of motive based on the notebook and the torn pages to prove a motive for a joint criminal enterprise was critical to the learned trial judge’s reasoning to guilt,’’ Cekic’s application states.

“The LTJ found that such a joint criminal enterprise existed and through this route, rejected the applicant’s case of self-defence.

“The document was irrelevant as there was no or no sufficient connection between the document and the applicant or any other of the accused. Its admission was therefore an error of law. The suggested relevance in fact relied upon the truth of the words written on the document and its use therefore offended the rule against hearsay.’’

The application states the Court of Criminal Appeal erred in holding that Justice Kourakis’ use of the document “as an item of circumstantial evidence was correct’’ and it had also erred in holding the document was “real evidence of the attitude of the Finks generally that was admissible against each of the accused.’’


LISTEN: The 000 call made after Finks bashing

“This application raises the issue of what is a sufficient connection between a document and an accused for the document to be admissible on any basis against that accused…’’

In a filed response DPP senior prosecutor Domenico Petraccaro states the questions posed by the applicant “misconstrue the nature’’ of the documents as they were not used by the trial judge or the Full Court as evidence of the truth of their contents.

“On the Crown case they were admissible to show that there was a strong indication in the documents that the author/s were concerned that some activities of some members of the North chapter of the Finks and Mr Bonnici in particular, were detrimental to the Finks overall,’’ he states.

“It was neither alleged, nor found, that the applicant was the/an author of the documents …

“This was not a case which relied on a connection between an accused and a document to prove the truth of any statement in the document against the accused. The use of the documents was purely non-testimonial as ‘possible’ evidence of ‘motive’ to be assessed with all other circumstantial evidence in the case.’’

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Nigel Hunt
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