Hitchhiking kidnapper loses appeal over Nimbin conviction

A HITCHHIKER who used drugs and a steak knife to scare a teenager into driving him and another man from Kyogle to Nimbin has been denied an appeal to have his conviction overturned.

Brendan Joel Castle was acquitted of larceny but convicted of kidnapping over the crime which left the young driver, whose identity has been protected, fearing for his safety.

The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal found Castle and an accomplice, referred to only as Mr Boyd in court documents, were standing on a bend in the Kyogle area in October 2012 when one walked in front of an oncoming car and told the driver they wanted to get to Nimbin.

When the driver said he could not drive them, Mr Boyd appeared to offer him drugs and Castle was seen to be holding a bag of marijuana and a steak knife, according to the Crown case.

The terrified young driver submitted to their demands and started the journey with the two passengers.

They stopped at a property belonging to the driver's relative along the way, and the two family members briefly talked.

The older relative noticed the driver looked scared and appeared to have been crying.

"(The relative) told the men that the complainant would only drop them at a lookout partway between his property and the property where the complainant lived," Justice Tom Bathurst said.

"The complainant drove on and when they approached the lookout, Mr Boyd was said to have grabbed the steering wheel, veering the car to the right, and told the complainant to take them to Nimbin, with which the complainant complied.

"There was evidence of strange comments made by Mr Boyd on the road that the complainant interpreted as a veiled threat.

"After dropping the men at Nimbin, the complainant was able to return home."

Castle argued he was an innocent hitchhiker, though admittedly intoxicated.

He alleged the teenager had willingly picked up him and his friend and denied having a bag of marijuana or a knife on him.

He further claimed the driver's older relative had sanctioned the drive to Nimbin, and that he had not heard any talk of an alternative drop-off point or seeing his fellow passenger grabbing the steering wheel.

Castle argued the trial judge had misdirected the jury by telling them, if they believed Castle did not realise the driver had refused to drive him, they could consider whether he was reckless as to consent.

"The evidence... established an awareness or appreciation in the appellant that the complainant was not willing to drive him and his companion (that is, that he was not consenting), or at the very least that he was aware of the possibility that he was not consenting," Justice Bathurst said.

The Court of Criminal Appeal found there had been no miscarriage of justice and upheld the guilty verdict. 

Footnote: An earlier version of this story claimed Castle was behind bars. However, the Supreme Court judgement contained no details of his sentence on the charges. We are happy to clarify that.


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