A jury has thrown out all 18 child sex abuse charges against a West Coast man who had been blackmailed by two of his three accusers.
The emphatic clean sweep of not guilty verdicts was delivered by the Christchurch District Court jury on the 18th day of the trial before Judge Brian Callaghan.
Two of the three complainants, who were not in Christchurch, were able to view the judge by video-link and hear the verdicts being delivered. They had no view of the court, the defendant, or the jury.
The 45-year-old man was able to step out of the dock to hug family and supporters in the back of the court. He declined to speak to the reporter in court.
The jury delivered its verdicts three days after it began its deliberations, but much of that time was spent looking at the video-recording of the interview with one of the complainants and listening to the recording of the related evidence and cross-examination.
Defence counsel Pip Hall QC, who appeared with Ethan Huda, put forward a defence case that the sexual abuse of the three girls had not happened and the allegations of sexual abuse over eight years were lies.
The women’s names were automatically suppressed, and the judge has now made the man’s interim name suppression final with the end of the trial.
The man had denied six charges of rape, eight 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 alleged victims are now women in their 20s. They were aged between seven and 16 years when the Crown alleged the offending occurred at several West Coast locations and near Christchurch in one case. All of the charges referred to dates more than 10 years ago.
The man claimed he had been the victim of a campaign of harassment and blackmail, but he had made payments to three women who the Crown said he had abused. Two of the women, as teenagers, had admitted blackmailing him and were prosecuted.
“The payments to all these girls are tantamount to admissions,” Crown prosecutor Karyn South told the jury. “The Crown says that when you look at all the facts, there is no mystery about why he made these payments. He did so because he committed these offences.”
Mr Hall said that the payments were not proof of the offending. The man told the police he made the payments to stop the harassment and threatening comments. “The payments were made to avoid yet another false allegation to the police, which had become a pattern,” he said.
Judge Callaghan thanked the jury for the time they had spent on the trial, taking so much time out of their personal lives.
“It has probably been one of the most difficult trials I have seen for quite a few years,” said the judge.