Memory expert to give evidence at sex abuse trial

A man who says two women have wrongly remembered alleged sexual indecencies over a decade ago, is on trial in the Christchurch District Court.

An expert witness is going to be called by defence to give evidence about how memory works, and he will say that people could remember things that did not and had not happened to them, defence counsel Tim Fournier told Judge Alistair Garland and the jury.

A memory that is wrong doesn’t behave any differently from a memory that is right, he said. Memories distorted, degraded, and diminished over time, and could be influenced by being retold.

People tweaked their accounts of memory based on who they were speaking to, and “glossed on” stuff to fit with the audience. Memory was not like a video tape to be rewound and freeze framed, Mr Fournier said.

Defence were not saying either of the woman were lying, or making up the offending. They believed what they were going to tell the jury, but it was wrong and unreliable, and the offending did not happen, he said.

Colin Robert Williams, 49, is on trial for eight charges of indecent assault on a girl under 12 years old, five charges of indecent assault on a girl between 12 and 16 years old, unlawful sexual connection, inducing an indecent act by threat, and indecent assault on a female over 16.

Crown prosecutor Kathy Basire said the two complainants alleged Williams offended against them between 1989 and 2003.

The first victim said she was indecently assaulted twice, but the other victim said the offending occurred over many years, said Ms Basire.

She said Williams admitted he had a major alcohol and drug problem during some of the years the offending was alleged to have happened, which had affected his memory.

The trial is continuing.


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