Tight security for party rape verdicts

June 9, 2017 | By More

A courtroom dissolved into gasps and tears as a jury delivered guilty verdicts against two young men accused of rape and sexual violation of a drunk 15-year-old girl at a party.

One of the defendants, 20-year-old Brooke Christie Rolleston, was weeping in a state of collapse against the side of the dock as he was remanded in custody for sentencing in August.

Brandon James Roche, also 20, took the verdicts more calmly, in a courtroom where there was a large presence of police, court safety officers, and Corrections staff for the verdicts.

Supporters called out “I love you,” to the two young men as they were led away to begin inevitable long jail terms.

A man and a woman called out nasty names, clearly referring to the victim of the January 2016 rape, who was not in the Christchurch District Court after giving her evidence in the early days of the trial last week.

“I know you didn’t do it,” a woman called out to one of the men.

Supporters of the girl and the young men were on different sides of the public seating.

Five police arrived and stood at the back and sides, three court safety officers stood near the public seating, and two Corrections staff flanked the men in the dock.

Rolleston immediately burst into tears as the verdicts were delivered after about eight hours of jury deliberations. Supporters of the men were weeping, and the mother of the victim.

A court attendant took a box of tissues to a jury member who was also crying.

Judge Alistair Garland remanded the men for sentencing on August 2, though the date may have to be changed because of a defence counsel’s trial commitments. The judge asked for pre-sentence reports to be prepared and gave the men first strike warnings, which impose heavier sentences on repeat violent and sexual offenders.

The men had claimed that the threesome sex with the girl had been consensual, but she told the court she was so drunk she had no memory of it. The Crown prosecutor, Deirdre Elsmore, said the men had taken advantage of a girl who was so drunk she had difficulty walking and talking, and could not possibly have given consent for what happened.

The men had taken her from a bed where she was sleeping with friends at the end of a party at her house near Christchurch. The party had been announced – without her consent – on Facebook.

The defence said it was evident from Facebook messages shown to the jury that there had been online flirting by the girl with one of the men for months before the incident at the party. Witnesses said they saw her “grinding” against the men, Dirty Dancing-style, and leading them to the bedroom.

Before the jury came in to deliver its verdicts, Judge Garland warned the public gallery that it must respect the decision of the jury and not express its disagreement. Anyone behaving in a disruptive or disrespectful manner risked being held in contempt of court and placed in the cells. He required the public to behave in a dignified manner at all times.

He said: “I don’t know what the jury verdicts will be, but whatever their verdicts I know that some family, friends and support people of either the complainant or the defendants will not be pleased with the outcome.”

Supporters of the men mostly just called out “Love you” messages to them after the verdicts, but some muttered comments and left the courtroom immediately.

Judge Garland said the jury had carried out “a stressful and unpleasant duty”. He excused them from further jury service for five years.

Craig Ruane had appeared as defence counsel for Rolleston, and Trudi Aickin and Ruth Harcourt as defence counsel for Roche.

The men, both plasterers from Christchurch, had denied charges of rape and sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection. Two further violation charges had been dropped during the trial.


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Category: Focus

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