Guilty verdict in university violation trial

A jury has rejected a 20-year-old man’s claim that a woman consented to him getting into her bed for a sexual encounter at university accommodation, and he now awaits sentencing for sexual violation.

The jury returned a unanimous verdict after about three hours of deliberations on the fourth day of the trial of Henry Hamish Millar.

Christchurch District Court Judge Jane Farish remanded Millar for sentencing on October 4. A pre-sentence report will be prepared.

Millar did not give evidence in the trial, nor call any witnesses, but relied on his explanations at the time – including a statement to the police – and cross-examination and a detailed closing address by his counsel, James Rapley QC.

He said he met the woman at a hotel earlier in the night on July 21-22, 2018, and was then with a group at the university accommodation where she had gone to her bed to sleep and eat pasta after a night out drinking. The group went into her room at one stage.

Millar claimed when he went back to her room soon after, she had agreed to him getting into the bed and moved over to make room for him before they began sexual activity.

The woman said in evidence she woke to find Millar violating her with his finger, hurting her, and she ran crying from the bedroom.

Mr Rapley asked for bail for Millar pending sentencing, because he was aged only 20, had great family support, there had been no problems while he was on bail awaiting trial, and a non-custodial sentence was a possibility.

But Crown prosecutor Claire Boshier said she took issue with any suggestion the offence was at the lower end of the sentencing scale. “This was a vulnerable complainant, who was taken advantage of in her bedroom while she was asleep,” she said.

She said Millar had taken the case to trial so there would be no sentence reduction for a guilty plea.

Judge Farish decided to allow bail but she warned Millar it was not a guarantee that she would not send him to jail. “Don’t be under any illusion – if the law is such that I have to send you to jail, I will send you to jail,” she said.

She thanked the counsel for the way in which they had conducted the trial. She also thanked the jury, telling them: “I can tell from the looks on your faces that it has not been an easy exercise.”

Millar was taken out of court after the verdict and he was wiping his eyes and face when he was brought back for the sentencing date to be set. Judge Farish read him a first strike warning under the system that imposes heavier penalties on serious violent offenders who commit further crimes