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Acquittal in sex assault jury trial

A disabled man accused of sexually abusing a pregnant teenager about 20 years ago has been acquitted in Gisborne District Court.

The 60 year-old man’s jury trial began on Monday and ended on Friday with the jury deliberating for less than an hour before returning its not guilty verdict.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denied allegations that had led to him being charged with unlawful sexual connection and indecent assault of a girl aged between 12 and 16.

The complainant said the offending happened as a single incident some time between 2003 and 2005 when she was either 15 or 16 and pregnant. She was staying at the family’s house when she woke one night to find the man touching her inappropriately with his right hand. His left, disabled, hand was behind her neck. He was using it to try to pull her closer, the complainant said.

The accused was a father figure to her, having virtually adopted her from age 11 into his family, the woman said.

She continued to be a part of the family — none of whom knew or suspected anything was wrong — until she reported the alleged offending last year.

Her fear of jeopardising her relationship with the family was the reason she did not report the offending sooner, the complainant said.

The Crown said the man’s disability, of which much was made by the defence, was being used along with other peripheral matters to distract the jury from the real issues in the trial.

Counter-intuitive evidence about the behaviour and reporting patterns of sexually abused children, introduced as an agreed fact in the trial, neither proved or disproved the charges, prosecutor Amanda Bryant said.

However, she urged jurors to consider the parallels between the complainant’s conduct in this case and the contents of that research information.

Counsel Adam Simperingham urged the jury to accept the man’s evidence he could not physically have simultaneously carried out the three actions involved in the alleged offence.

Mr Simperingham said the complainant’s conduct since the time of the alleged offending did not fit with the findings of the counter-intuitive evidence.

Her behaviour went beyond what was known about that of child sex abuse victims.

Medical evidence called by the defence confirmed the nature of the man’s disability affected his mobility on the left side of his body, particularly in his arm and hand, but did not establish whether or not the man could have carried out the offences.