Blackmail by two alleged victims of child sex abuse has surfaced at a trial where a West Coast man faces 24 charges.
The 45-year-old man denies the charges and the defence will say that all the allegations of sexual abuse over eight years are all lies, according to the prosecution.
But the Crown told the Christchurch District Court jury that under New Zealand law, it was still blackmail if the allegations were true and it has gone ahead with the trial seven years after the complaints came to light.
In the meantime, the two women who carried out the $25,000 blackmail and signed a “confidentiality agreement”, have been dealt with by the courts after admitting those charges. They are now being called to give evidence at the man’s child sex abuse trial.
Christchurch District Court Judge Brian Callaghan told the jury as the trial began that it was expected to take three weeks, with three complainants giving evidence among the 16 Crown witnesses.
The alleged victims are now women in their 20s. They were aged between seven and 16 years when the Crown says the offending occurred at several West Coast locations and in Christchurch.
The women’s names are suppressed, and the man has interim suppression.
He denies six charges of rape and one of attempted rape, seven of indecent assault, seven of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, one of attempted unlawful sexual connection, and two of inducing girls to do an indecent act.
The blackmail allegation surfaced even before Crown prosecutor Karyn South made her opening address to the jury, when the trial judge raised the issue in his introductory remarks.
He said the trial would be told that two of the complainants blackmailed the man over what they said he had done to them years before, and he had paid $15,000 into one of their bank accounts, and $10,000 into the other.
“The Crown says these payments can be taken into account as a factor in deciding whether or not all of the charges are proved, “ said Judge Callaghan. “The defence says this is not the case and the payment is equivocal evidence that could relate to payments to avoid the consequences of false allegations.”
The defence said it was “perfectly plausible” for a person to pay to avoid unwelcome or unpleasant consequences, he said.
He told the jury it must assess the allegations, and if it could not make up its mind about the blackmail, it must set that aside and not take it into account in deciding its verdicts.
Miss South said that when the women were teenagers they had bought a cellphone and texted threats to make the allegations against the man unless they were paid. They signed a confidentiality agreement which said that everything would be “forgotten and put behind us”.
The allegations emerged when someone inquired about a payment into one of their bank accounts, and Miss South said one of the woman was then quite up front about the blackmail when she was interviewed by the police.
The man had not signed the confidentiality agreement but it was found at his address. Until the payments were discovered, he had not made a blackmail complaint.
The prosecutor said the man said the sex offending never happened, and he had only made the deposits because of the false allegations of abuse.
Defence counsel Pip Hall QC said the defence was that the sex offending did not occur. There had been collusion, and the complainants had come to believe that things happened which did not happen. Memories had been distorted by a combination of factors, including the passage of time.
“Regrettably, the complainants have imagined, exaggerated, misinterpreted, invented, or had implanted in their minds, events which they believe happened many years ago,” he said. These were “wrong memories” about sexual offending which had not occurred.
He said the jury would end up having significant and reasonable doubts about whether the complainants’ memories were reliable, or possibly lies.
The trial is continuing.