A jury has accepted that a man’s drunken bedroom confusion led to his arrest for indecent assault, but he has been fined $250 for punching the boyfriend of the woman he was accused of groping.
The jury found 27-year-old Sharn Jason Te Hau not guilty after 100 minutes of deliberation on the second day of the trial before Judge Raoul Neave in the Christchurch District Court.
The 20-year-old woman who told of feeling herself being touched as she lay naked from the waist up in her bed after a party, was in court as the verdict was delivered.
Te Hau left the court immediately but came back later for sentencing on the assault charge, which he had admitted before the trial began.
His defence team of Tony Garrett and Nikita Mitskevitch had impressed on the jury that almost everyone involved at a party had consumed an enormous amount of alcohol and the accurate recollection of some of the witnesses should be questioned.
The woman had been put to bed, intoxicated, at midnight, and had been later joined in bed by her boyfriend. Te Hau had been put to bed in another room, but had apparently got up and ended up in the wrong bed in the wrong bedroom.
When the boyfriend felt a third face, with stubble, in the bed there was an angry scene in the bedroom with Te Hau being ordered out but punching the boyfriend in the head amid the shouting. He was removed from the house by the woman’s brother.
Te Hau was asking the couple what they were doing there, while they were ordering him out.
After the verdict, Judge Neave said Te Hau was a first offender and the assault had been one punch.
He said: “He found himself in a difficult situation, some of which he brought on himself with his over-consumption of alcohol.”
The judge said: “He’s had a clear warning about the dangers of alcohol. I take it he has learned his lesson, Mr Garrett?”
Mr Garrett replied: “If you don’t go through this and learn something, there’s something wrong.”
Judge Neave thanked the jury, saying they had to “grapple with a particularly difficult set of issues” in the case.