News Segment


June 5, 2007

The drummer of rock band AC/DC has escaped a criminal conviction because it would hurt his career – despite admitting he assaulted his former partner in Mount Maunganui.

Phillip Rudd, who was born Phillip Hugh Norman Witschke Rudzevecuis, pleaded guilty to one charge of common assault when he appeared in Tauranga District Court yesterday.

The self-employed musician pleaded guilty after police reduced the charge from the more serious offence of male assaults female, which attracts a prison sentence of up to two years.

But Judge Robert Kerr discharged Witschke, 53, without conviction.

His lawyer, Matthew Ward-Johnson, successfully argued a conviction would have a significant impact on his client’s musical career and therefore outweigh the gravity of his offence.

The court was told that at 12.10pm on March 27, Witschke was on his boat with his two children at the Mount Maunganui marina when his former partner arrived to pick up the children, aged four and 10.

A discussion about money ensued which became heated, at which point Witschke pushed his chest into his ex-partner and held a clenched fist to her face in threatening manner.

Witschke then grabbed her by the upper arms and pretended to push her overboard, which caused her and the two children who witnessed the assault to become upset.

She subsequently laid a complaint with police.

When police spoke to Witschke on April 22 he denied pushing her, claiming he just wanted her off the boat and had stopped her falling into the water as she stepped onshore.

Judge Kerr said it was clear to him Witschke’s actions were at the lower end of the scale and “threatening rather than violent”.

The judge said a discharge without conviction was fair given the significant impact it would have on Witschke’s career and his ability to travel to some countries to pursue it.

Melbourne-born Witschke was AC/DC drummer from 1975 until 1983 and rejoined the ban in 1994 when AC/DC toured New Zealand.

Since his return, Witschke contributed to the band’s Ballbreaker and Stiff Upper Lip albums.

AC/DC have sold more than 150 million albums worldwide, including more than 68 million in the US.

Witschke is the second high-profile celebrity to appear in court recently admitting to assaulting their former partner.

Lion man Craig Busch, 42, of Whangarei’s Zion Wildlife Gardens, was convicted and discharged on two charges of assault in Whangarei District Court on May 23.

Courtesy of