Supreme Court dismisses brothel keeper's appeal
A brothel keeper found guilty of having sex with a 15-year-old schoolgirl and employing her as a prostitute has had his appeal dismissed in the country's highest court.
Michael Hastie appealed his 2010 conviction on the grounds the judge did not appropriately inform the jurors of their responsibilities.
The jury found Hastie not guilty of two counts of supplying cannabis to the girl. But he was found guilty, by a majority verdict, on six charges under the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.
The charges stemmed from Hastie's involvement with a young schoolgirl who, the prosecution argued, was lured into the sex industry when she arrived in New Plymouth. She intended to meet a young surfer but found Hastie, then in his 50s, waiting for her at the bus stop.
The court was told he had sex with her and coerced her into working as a prostitute from his house, and also took a cut of the money.
Hastie's friends said they were shocked by the decision and described Hastie as a "gentleman" who cared for the girl like a daughter. His lawyer, Susan Hughes QC, said the sex between Hastie and the runaway was consensual.
Hughes had argued her client should have his sentence reduced by two years to accommodate his poor health. Hastie was sentenced to four and a half years jail in March last year.
Hastie then appealed against the conviction and sentence. The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal, but the Supreme Court was asked to address whether the judge's directions to the jury were appropriate.
The jury had deliberated for about 10 hours when they sent a note to Judge Roberts saying they had agreed on two counts but were unable to reach a decision on six other counts "and are stalemate at 9 to 3".
"We are unsure where to proceed from here. We have made progress to get to this point from last night. Can we have some direction please?," the note said.
Hughes at that time told the judge to accept the verdict on two counts and dismiss the other six, but the judge disagreed.
He had mentioned in his summary that a majority verdict was an option, and wrote back to the jurors telling them they should try to reach a majority verdict.
"I will call you back into court at a time in the not too distant future so that if you are truly locked, with no possibility of rendering the majority verdict, I will discharge you," he wrote to the jurors.
Thirty minutes later the jury reached a majority 11-1 verdict on the six other counts.
Hughes argued the judge should have given a papadopoulos direction, as part of his majority verdict direction, that jurors should be true to their oaths and that no one should give in merely for the sake of agreement or to avoid inconvenience.
However, nothing Roberts said suggested that a juror "should be false to his or her oath" or that any juror "should give in merely for the sake of agreement or to avoid inconvenience", the Supreme Court decision said.
"His direction was entirely informational and did not exhort the jury to try to reach a majority verdict."
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