Jury finds man, 75, guilty of sex crimes

Gisborne Courthouse. File picture by Rebecca Grunwell

A 75-year-old man on trial this week in Gisborne District Court for historical sex offending against five girls, has been found guilty on all but one of 11 charges.

The jury retired about 2pm yesterday and returned its verdicts about 9pm.

Judge Stephen Harrop remanded the man in custody for sentence by AV-link on August 2.

Three of the complainants and another witness will now return to their overseas homes.

The man was found guilty of offending against each of the women, their allegations spanning the 19 years from 1969 to 1988. His name is withheld to protect their identities.

The women were all whangai children of his wife’s parents — a couple who raised more than 20 children on a remote, 467.2 hectare East Coast farm property, now operating as a family trust.

The offending was reflected in two charges of attempted rape (in respect of two complainants), assault with intent to rape (in respect of one of those same two complainants), and (in relation to all the complainants) seven charges — three of them representative — of indecent assault against girls aged either under 12 or between 12 and 16.

The charge on which he was found not guilty was one of the representative indecency charges. It related to a complainant whose evidence in court was insufficient for another charge against him - one of rape - to proceed. (That charge was dismissed at the end of the Crown case.) He was however, found guilty of an isolated indecency incident in relation to this complainant.

The defence claimed the women, motivated by family land grievances, colluded to fabricate their complaints in an effort to remove the accused and his wife, the holder of a longstanding Maori Land Court occupation order, from their 4000 sq m (one acre) prime coastal section and home on the land.

In her closing address yesterday, prosecutor Jo Rielly reiterated the women’s insistence their complaints had nothing to do with the land. The two issues were entirely separate.

Some of the complainants lived overseas and had done for many years, with little to no interest in the land. Two were trustees who said the couple could not be removed from the land, Mrs Rielly said.

In response to a defence claim the allegations were “fantastical”, Mrs Rielly said the only thing fantastical was the suggestion the five women had all lied.

The women acknowledged there were land issues but that did not mean it would motivate them to perjury.

Inconsistencies in their accounts and their inability to remember some details surrounding what happened to them as children — as long ago as 50 years — were only natural. If they were colluding, the jury might have expected the accounts to more closely align.

The delay in the complaints was also understandable. Sexual complainants delay for all sorts of reasons, as these women had, including a belief that they were the only one offended against, and a desire not to upset other much-loved family members (such as the accused’s wife).

These complainants came forward when they learned of each other’s allegations.

In his closing address, defence counsel Michael Lynch borrowed from Judge Peter Mahon’s famous remark in the Mt Erebus inquiry, describing the case as an “orchestrated litany of lies” conducted by one of the complainants, who he said was particularly aggrieved with the accused over land issues.

Mrs Rielly said criticism of that complainant was unfair. Someone had to inquire of other “siblings” if they too were victims.

There was a pattern to the accused’s offending, Mrs Rielly said. He was a man who touched girls within his wider family, in a bold, arrogant, and risk-taking way.

Either the accused did what the women claimed or he was a very unlucky man to have five women each allege similar offending by him.

Of the accused’s wife’s evidence, given in his defence, Mrs Rielly said that witness was fixated on land issues — even though she had been given an assurance early last year her occupation order was lifelong. She had tried to make her husband’s trial about her.

She did not want to face the prospect that her husband of 48 years could have done these things.

She had prepared her evidence for the trial and was “well-schooled”.

Mr Lynch said contrary to the Crown’s assertion the land was nothing to do with these allegations, it had everything to do with them.

There was a timely link between these complaints and brewing land issues.

The complainants resented the accused who they believed was an outsider earning money off the land while their relatives were not receiving any benefit.

The accused’s wife was a reliable witness who was a young woman at the time of the alleged offending. Her recollections should be believed ahead of those of the complainants, who were children at the time.

Jurors should not sideline the defence witness as a loyal wife simply wanting to support her husband, Mr Lynch said.

A 75-year-old man on trial this week in Gisborne District Court for historical sex offending against five girls, has been found guilty on all but one of 11 charges.

The jury retired about 2pm yesterday and returned its verdicts about 9pm.

Judge Stephen Harrop remanded the man in custody for sentence by AV-link on August 2.

Three of the complainants and another witness will now return to their overseas homes.

The man was found guilty of offending against each of the women, their allegations spanning the 19 years from 1969 to 1988. His name is withheld to protect their identities.

The women were all whangai children of his wife’s parents — a couple who raised more than 20 children on a remote, 467.2 hectare East Coast farm property, now operating as a family trust.

The offending was reflected in two charges of attempted rape (in respect of two complainants), assault with intent to rape (in respect of one of those same two complainants), and (in relation to all the complainants) seven charges — three of them representative — of indecent assault against girls aged either under 12 or between 12 and 16.

The charge on which he was found not guilty was one of the representative indecency charges. It related to a complainant whose evidence in court was insufficient for another charge against him - one of rape - to proceed. (That charge was dismissed at the end of the Crown case.) He was however, found guilty of an isolated indecency incident in relation to this complainant.

The defence claimed the women, motivated by family land grievances, colluded to fabricate their complaints in an effort to remove the accused and his wife, the holder of a longstanding Maori Land Court occupation order, from their 4000 sq m (one acre) prime coastal section and home on the land.

In her closing address yesterday, prosecutor Jo Rielly reiterated the women’s insistence their complaints had nothing to do with the land. The two issues were entirely separate.

Some of the complainants lived overseas and had done for many years, with little to no interest in the land. Two were trustees who said the couple could not be removed from the land, Mrs Rielly said.

In response to a defence claim the allegations were “fantastical”, Mrs Rielly said the only thing fantastical was the suggestion the five women had all lied.

The women acknowledged there were land issues but that did not mean it would motivate them to perjury.

Inconsistencies in their accounts and their inability to remember some details surrounding what happened to them as children — as long ago as 50 years — were only natural. If they were colluding, the jury might have expected the accounts to more closely align.

The delay in the complaints was also understandable. Sexual complainants delay for all sorts of reasons, as these women had, including a belief that they were the only one offended against, and a desire not to upset other much-loved family members (such as the accused’s wife).

These complainants came forward when they learned of each other’s allegations.

In his closing address, defence counsel Michael Lynch borrowed from Judge Peter Mahon’s famous remark in the Mt Erebus inquiry, describing the case as an “orchestrated litany of lies” conducted by one of the complainants, who he said was particularly aggrieved with the accused over land issues.

Mrs Rielly said criticism of that complainant was unfair. Someone had to inquire of other “siblings” if they too were victims.

There was a pattern to the accused’s offending, Mrs Rielly said. He was a man who touched girls within his wider family, in a bold, arrogant, and risk-taking way.

Either the accused did what the women claimed or he was a very unlucky man to have five women each allege similar offending by him.

Of the accused’s wife’s evidence, given in his defence, Mrs Rielly said that witness was fixated on land issues — even though she had been given an assurance early last year her occupation order was lifelong. She had tried to make her husband’s trial about her.

She did not want to face the prospect that her husband of 48 years could have done these things.

She had prepared her evidence for the trial and was “well-schooled”.

Mr Lynch said contrary to the Crown’s assertion the land was nothing to do with these allegations, it had everything to do with them.

There was a timely link between these complaints and brewing land issues.

The complainants resented the accused who they believed was an outsider earning money off the land while their relatives were not receiving any benefit.

The accused’s wife was a reliable witness who was a young woman at the time of the alleged offending. Her recollections should be believed ahead of those of the complainants, who were children at the time.

Jurors should not sideline the defence witness as a loyal wife simply wanting to support her husband, Mr Lynch said.

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