Defence says accusers remembering wrongly, as memory expert is called to sex abuse trial

Colin Robert Williams appears in the Christchurch District Court on Monday.
FAIRFAX NZ

Colin Robert Williams appears in the Christchurch District Court on Monday.

A man on trial for alleged sexual indecencies over a decade ago says his two accusers have remembered wrongly.

Colin Robert Williams, 49, is on trial in the Christchurch District Court for eight charges of indecent assault on a girl under 12 years old, five charges of indecent assault on a girl between 12 and 16 years old, unlawful sexual connection, inducing an indecent act by threat, and indecent assault on a female over 16.

Crown prosecutor Kathy Basire said the two complainants alleged Williams offended against them between 1989 and 2003.

The first victim said she was indecently assaulted twice, and the other victim said the offending occurred over many years.

Basire said Williams admitted he had a major alcohol and drug problem during some of the years the offending was alleged to have happened, which had affected his memory.

Defence counsel Tim Fournier told Judge Alistair Garland and the jury that an expert witness would be called to give evidence about how memory works, and would say people could remember things that had not happened to them.

A memory that was wrong did not behave any differently from a memory that was right, he said. Memories were distorted, degraded, and diminished over time, and could be influenced by being retold.

People tweaked their accounts of memory based on who they were speaking to, and "glossed on" stuff to fit with the audience. Memory was not like a video tape to be rewound and freeze-framed, Fournier said.

The defence was not saying either of the woman were lying, or making up the offending. They believed what they were going to tell the jury, but it was wrong and unreliable, and the offending did not happen, he said.

The trial is continuing.

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