Offenders sentenced for ‘sex-in-the-dark’ deception

Court House-general 3A rape victim has been criticised by a defence lawyer at the sentencing of the two young men who were found guilty of sexually offending against her.

The two 24-year-old men maintain their innocence, claiming they believed they had the woman student’s consent for an end-of-term sexual encounter in the dark at the University of Canterbury Halls of Residence.

But the Christchurch District Court jury at their trial in October found that their claim of a belief in consent was unreasonable and they have both been sent to jail by Judge Alistair Garland.

Kenneth John James Seddon-Nicholas, 24, a freezing worker, was jailed for seven years on charges of sexual violation by rape and oral sex.

Akaporn Kanthasao Bearman, 24, who was just completing a Bachelor of Sports degree at the time, was jailed for two years eight months for sexual violation by penetrating the woman with his fingers.

Seddon-Nicholas’ defence counsel, Tony Greig told the court: “My instructions are that the Victim Impact Report is as exaggerated as the complainant’s evidence in the first place. If you visit her Facebook pages you would see that she is not traumatised in the way she has alleged.”

He said the woman had “made mistakes about what happened that night”. If she had been genuinely mistaken, it was open to Seddon-Nicholas to have some allowance made for his claim that he had been mistaken as well.

Counsel for Bearman, David Bunce, said the jury’s finding was consistent with the view that there was a genuine belief in consent, but it was unreasonable in the circumstances.

The judge noted that the pair had a lot of family and supporters at court for the sentencing – the session had to be shifted to a large courtroom to accommodate them – and they had obviously accepted the men’s side of the story, that the woman had not told the truth in court.

But he said the jury had the advantage of hearing all the evidence and in his judgment they had reached a fair conclusion. The case had been a tragedy for all concerned.

The offending occurred on the night June 3, 2012, after end of term celebrations at the university. The men’s group had flirted with the group of women, but the victim had shown no interest in the two men. She had “hooked up” with another man and returned to the Halls of Residence and had sex with him.

Later in the evening, Seddon-Nicholas and Bearman, went to the room to interrupt proceedings and tried to pull the bedclothes off the woman. In a discussion outside the room, they asked her partner if he minded if they “tried their luck” with her for a threesome. He said he did not mind.

Seddon-Nicholas went into the room, followed by Bearman, and the sexual activity took place in the dark, with neither of them speaking. They continued when she apparently became aware that there were two men present, and that a different man from the one earlier in the night was having sex with her.

Crown prosecutor Deirdre Elsmore said the woman had been confused about what was happening. “She is still bewildered about why this happened, and how it happened.”

She said the pre-sentence report indicated the men had “grossly distorted perceptions of what is required in terms of consent for sexual activity”.

Judge Garland noted that Seddon-Nicholas said afterwards that the woman still believed it was the man from earlier in the night who had had sex with her. He said that neither man had taken any notice when the woman realised something was amiss and indicated she was not consenting.

“You were only interested in your enjoyment and your sexual gratification. Seddon-Nicholas referred to it as your ‘entertainment’.”

Seddon-Nicholas was assessed as a high risk of reoffending but Bearman’s risk was assessed as low. Both sentences were reduced for their good records. Seddon-Nicholas has some minor convictions, but Bearman has none.

Seddon-Nicholas was tearful, and some supporters were crying in the public gallery as the sentences  were imposed.

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