Invercargill underage sex accused not guilty

An Invercargill man accused of having an unlawful sexual connection with a 14-year-old has been found not guilty by a jury.

The man, who has final name suppression, sighed heavily as the verdict was delivered.

The jury had retired to consider its verdict about 4pm on Tuesday and delivered its verdict about 2pm on Wednesday.

Immediately after the jury was released, the man hugged and kissed his partner, who was present in the court and had tears in her eyes.

The trial began before the jury and Judge Mark Callaghan in the Invercargill District Court on Monday.

While the defence had accepted that sexual intercourse had taken place, they had maintained the man believed the complainant was 17-years-old.

During the trial, the man told the jury that when he met the complainant at a party at his house and asked her how old she was, she told him she was 17.

She was drinking alcohol, smoking, with an older group of people, and did not appear to be younger than 17, he said.

The pair had exchanged text messages which were shown to the jury.

The man said a text message he sent asking her what she did, to which she replied "dairy farm", led him to believe she had left school and worked on a dairy farm.

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"I wouldn't have taken it any further if I didn't believe her."

Days after the pair met, he picked the complainant up in his car, bought her alcohol using her bank card, and drove around before having sex with her.

The man said he did not know the girl was under 16 until the detective handling the case contacted him and told him.

During the trial, crown prosecutor John Young said the case was that of an older man taking advantage of a vulnerable young girl, and that more was required of an older man to establish the complainant's age.

When summing the case up to the jury before they considered their verdict, Judge Callaghan said the law places the onus on the defendant to take reasonable steps to determine the age of a potential sexual partner.

The jury's task was to determine whether the man had 'taken reasonable steps'.




 - The Southland Times

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