Mixed verdicts in ‘memory’ trial

March 30, 2017 | By More

A sex abuse trial that was said to be about the reliability of memory has ended in a mix of guilty and not guilty verdicts in the Christchurch District Court.

Colin Robert Williams, 49, was found guilty on four charges involving touching two girls on the bottom, the breasts, and one of them between the thighs in the groin area.

There were nine not guilty verdicts, including more serious charges of inducing an indecent act with a girl aged under 12, indecent assault alleging he thrust his penis between a girl’s legs, and touching a girl’s genitals.

The verdicts were delivered on the ninth day of the trial before Judge Alistair Garland, and after a day-and-a-half of deliberations.

Experts were called by the Crown and the defence to present their views about the reliability of memory, in a trial where the charges alleged offending between 1989 and 2003.

Williams, who was represented by Tim Fournier and Kiran Paima, denied all 13 charges.

The defence contended that memories could become distorted, degraded, and diminished over time, and could be influenced by being retold.

Mr Fournier said the defence were not saying either of the woman complainants were lying, or making up the offending. They believed what they told the jury, but it was wrong and unreliable, and the offending had not happened.

The jury retired to consider its verdicts at lunch time on Wednesday, and returned to court on Thursday afternoon to say they could not reach unanimous verdicts on all the charges. Judge Garland then gave them the direction allowing them to consider 11-1 majority verdicts.

After retiring again, the jury returned to court to deliver unanimous verdicts on all but one charge.

Judge Garland remanded Williams for sentencing on July 12. He asked for a pre-sentence report which will consider his suitability for home or community detention.

He told Williams that was not an indication of the sentence that would be imposed, but he wanted to keep the options open.

Williams had been on bail pending trial, and will remain on bail for sentencing.

Judge Garland thanked the jury members because they had obviously “worked very hard, diligently, and well” in reaching the verdicts.


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