20 Oct 2017

'Bomb threat' charges over cassette thrown out

2:43 pm on 20 October 2017

A musician whose latest noise album caused police to shut down much of central Dunedin earlier this year has been cleared of wrongdoing.

Dene Barnes said he was shocked police charged him in the first place

Dene Barnes said he was shocked police charged him in the first place Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Dene Barnes, 44, appeared in the Dunedin District Court today facing a charge of threatening a building, related to a bomb scare in the city on 16 June.

Police established cordons and evacuated buildings throughout a large tract of the CBD after a member of the public reported finding a suspicious package, accompanied by an ominous note, stuck to the wall of an abandoned strip club in Moray Place.

It turned out the package was Mr Barnes' latest album Street Noise, performed under the moniker LSD Fundraiser.

The accompanying note was a poem, which read:

''When there's nothing else to lose.

''i will firebomb your car.

''i will hack into your computer.

''i will leak trade & state


''i will hammer holes in your office windows.

''i will raise [sic] your buildings to

''the ground.

''i will bring you down.''

The New Zealand Defence Force's explosive ordnance disposal squad was flown to Dunedin by helicopter to carry out a controlled explosion of the cassette tape.

Judge John Macdonald dismissed the charge, saying, "Taken in context, I don't see this was a threat and I don't see that the defendant knew or regarded it as a threat".

The charging document stated Mr Barnes "without lawful justification or excuse, and without claim of right, knowing a letter to contain a threat to damage property, namely a building, office and house, secured the said letter to 318 Moray Place, Dunedin, and caused the said letter to be received by members of the public".

To prove the charge a reasonable person fully aware of the circumstances had to perceive the letter as a threat, defence lawyer Anne Stevens said.

"There's no evidence at all that Mr Barnes intended to issue a threat. It was an artistic or aesthetic intention."

The tape was one of 13 which Mr Barnes intended for people to find around the city.

Police at the cordon after the suspicious package was found in Dunedin city centre.

Police at the cordon after the suspicious package was found in Dunedin city centre. Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

He began posting them attached to a bright yellow background on "poster walls" in the central city from 1 June.

"It was a limited release and I put 10 up around the central city," Mr Barnes told the court.

"I had three more I was going to put up.

"All the places that I have attached the tapes to are poster walls where people advertise gigs.

"Most often they are boarded-up buildings or derelict buildings that have fallen into disrepair. They have been claimed by local artists or musicians to advertise gigs."

Police already knew of album release

Mrs Stevens revealed the artistic endeavour had come to police attention eight days before the bomb scare.

A member of the public located one of the tapes on the wall of a burnt out restaurant in Rattray Street on 8 June, a few hundred metres from the package found in Moray Place on 16 June, and reported it to police.

A constable went to the scene and located the package, Mrs Stevens said.

"He perceived no threat and simply closed the matter."

The police constable could presumably be seen as a "reasonable person", she said.

Judge Macdonald questioned police prosecutor Sergeant Adrian Cheyne on how he intended to prove Mr Barnes knew the letter was a threat or could be seen as a threat.

Mr Cheyne said the police case was that a threat was made to the building the note was attached to.

"There's no point making a threat to a building. Who do you say the poem is directed to?" Judge Macdonald retorted.

There was a loud cheer and applause from Mr Barnes' supporters in the public gallery when the charge was dismissed.

Outside court, Mr Barnes said he felt "vindicated" by the judge's decision.

"I think they overreacted and misinterpreted," he said.

"I was pretty stunned really, gobsmacked and shocked for a while," he said of the police's decision to charge him.

"I think it was a huge overreaction on their part and somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction."