Jury says guilty of indecency

A man accused of indecently assaulting his best friend’s nine-year-old daughter at a social gathering was yesterday found guilty by a jury in Gisborne District Court.

The accused, whose name is not published to protect the complainant’s identity, went on trial on Wednesday and the jury took about an hour to find him guilty of all five charges of indecency.

Judge Warren Cathcart remanded him on bail for sentence on June 27.

The charges related to August last year, when two couples and their four children aged under 10 were socialising at the accused’s house. They often did this during their two-year friendship.

Another adult male was also present, someone the accused’s partner described as similar in appearance to the accused.

Like others at the gathering, the accused was drunk. He told police he was eight out of 10 intoxicated.

The four children were initially put to bed in a lounge off a dining room, where the adults were socialising. Later, the accused and his partner moved the two visiting children to another bedroom.

The first charge alleged that while carrying her along a hallway to that room, the man put one of his hands in the girl’s underpants and squeezed her bottom.

The other four charges represented times he allegedly returned to the room and tried to pull down her pants, put his hand down her pants, touched her midriff, and touched her vagina on top of her clothes.

Crown prosecutor Megan Mitchell initially told the jury the key issue was whether the girl was telling the truth.

Judge Cathcart yesterday ordered the complainant recalled so defence counsel John Mathieson could further question her as to whether her identification of the accused might be mistaken.

In his closing address, Mr Mathieson submitted that by the time the girl reported her allegations to police three days later, she had been influenced by her family, particularly her mother, who believed without question the accused was the perpetrator.

But it could have been the other man at the party.

The nature of the allegations had intensified by the time police heard them. There was a danger the girl told police what she thought her family wanted her to say.

The girl was wrong in her claim of being indecently touched in the hallway. The man had carried her in a cradling position, so it was physically impossible for him to have done what she described.

Any unusual touching that might have taken place was innocent and could have occurred as he went to put her down on a mattress in the bedroom, he said.

Witnessed by his partner, the girl had started to fall out of his arms. To stop her falling on to her little sister, he changed his grip.

It was possible the accused grabbed her in an unusual way, counsel said.

Ms Mitchell said the defence theory was flawed. It required the jury to believe the girl correctly identified who it was that carried her along the hall — there was no dispute it was the accused — but that she was wrong about who came into the bedroom and touched her, that she was correct about being touched but wrong about who did it.

There was no question it was the accused who returned to the room.

The girl knew him well and there was sufficient lighting for her to see him.

Her account was consistent with and supported by what adult witnesses saw and heard that night. It was typical of evidence given by young children and had a ring of truth.

The accused’s immediate reaction to the allegations, when first confronted by the girl’s parents and in the heat of that moment, was to say he was sorry.

While he had an excuse for that and other similar remarks when questioned by police a week later, it was only because he had time to consider his position, Ms Mitchell said.

He was careful to say that when he went to use a toilet in the hallway that night it was “far” from the bedroom. But in her evidence, his partner accepted she had at one stage found him at the other end of the hallway, near that bedroom.

His mother-in-law and his partner both urged the jury to accept the accused could not have done this. He was a good person.

But even good people made mistakes, especially when drunk. Every offender had a first crime, Ms Mitchell said.

A man accused of indecently assaulting his best friend’s nine-year-old daughter at a social gathering was yesterday found guilty by a jury in Gisborne District Court.

The accused, whose name is not published to protect the complainant’s identity, went on trial on Wednesday and the jury took about an hour to find him guilty of all five charges of indecency.

Judge Warren Cathcart remanded him on bail for sentence on June 27.

The charges related to August last year, when two couples and their four children aged under 10 were socialising at the accused’s house. They often did this during their two-year friendship.

Another adult male was also present, someone the accused’s partner described as similar in appearance to the accused.

Like others at the gathering, the accused was drunk. He told police he was eight out of 10 intoxicated.

The four children were initially put to bed in a lounge off a dining room, where the adults were socialising. Later, the accused and his partner moved the two visiting children to another bedroom.

The first charge alleged that while carrying her along a hallway to that room, the man put one of his hands in the girl’s underpants and squeezed her bottom.

The other four charges represented times he allegedly returned to the room and tried to pull down her pants, put his hand down her pants, touched her midriff, and touched her vagina on top of her clothes.

Crown prosecutor Megan Mitchell initially told the jury the key issue was whether the girl was telling the truth.

Judge Cathcart yesterday ordered the complainant recalled so defence counsel John Mathieson could further question her as to whether her identification of the accused might be mistaken.

In his closing address, Mr Mathieson submitted that by the time the girl reported her allegations to police three days later, she had been influenced by her family, particularly her mother, who believed without question the accused was the perpetrator.

But it could have been the other man at the party.

The nature of the allegations had intensified by the time police heard them. There was a danger the girl told police what she thought her family wanted her to say.

The girl was wrong in her claim of being indecently touched in the hallway. The man had carried her in a cradling position, so it was physically impossible for him to have done what she described.

Any unusual touching that might have taken place was innocent and could have occurred as he went to put her down on a mattress in the bedroom, he said.

Witnessed by his partner, the girl had started to fall out of his arms. To stop her falling on to her little sister, he changed his grip.

It was possible the accused grabbed her in an unusual way, counsel said.

Ms Mitchell said the defence theory was flawed. It required the jury to believe the girl correctly identified who it was that carried her along the hall — there was no dispute it was the accused — but that she was wrong about who came into the bedroom and touched her, that she was correct about being touched but wrong about who did it.

There was no question it was the accused who returned to the room.

The girl knew him well and there was sufficient lighting for her to see him.

Her account was consistent with and supported by what adult witnesses saw and heard that night. It was typical of evidence given by young children and had a ring of truth.

The accused’s immediate reaction to the allegations, when first confronted by the girl’s parents and in the heat of that moment, was to say he was sorry.

While he had an excuse for that and other similar remarks when questioned by police a week later, it was only because he had time to consider his position, Ms Mitchell said.

He was careful to say that when he went to use a toilet in the hallway that night it was “far” from the bedroom. But in her evidence, his partner accepted she had at one stage found him at the other end of the hallway, near that bedroom.

His mother-in-law and his partner both urged the jury to accept the accused could not have done this. He was a good person.

But even good people made mistakes, especially when drunk. Every offender had a first crime, Ms Mitchell said.

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