Businessman denies sexual assault on women staff

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2014

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A Hawke's Bay businessman, accused of indecent assault, repeatedly groped a staff member while she drove through Napier, a court has heard.

The man, in his 60s, who cannot yet be named, is on trial in the Napier District Court on six charges of indecent assault.

The incident is alleged to have occurred on January 28, 2012.

Crown prosecutor Clayton Walker told jurors the man was well known in the community and used a company vehicle to take friends to and from a charity boxing event at the Pettigrew-Green arena at Taradale.

The man is accused of five indecent assaults on a female employee in her 30s, who drove the group from the event, and one against an employee in her 50s, who drove the group to the event.

Defence lawyer Paul Mabey, QC, said the man denied all allegations made by the younger woman and the allegation made by the older woman could be explained as "a bit of stupidity".

Walker said the older woman would give evidence the man was intoxicated when collected with his friends, and that he jumped across a person in the front seat to end up with his face in her lap.

Instead of moving, he remained there for 15 to 20 seconds.

"She didn't in fact do anything about it, because she was used to him behaving like that," Mr Walker said. "She simply ignored it, put up with it."

The younger employee, who collected the man and his friends, alleged he touched her bottom, grabbed her breast, tried to kiss her, and put his hand between her legs as she was driving.

"Throughout this time, [he] was making suggestive comments to her, or telling her what he would like to do," Mr Walker said.

"She was rebuffing these and remonstrating with him, telling him what she thought of him. All to no avail, she will tell you."

The younger woman told the court the man rang her the next day to say he had a good night and asked if she could meet him "to finish off what we started".

When she collected her final pay a few days later, he told her she was "worth every cent", she said.

Under cross-examination, she said she had not stopped the vehicle because she was "petrified" and felt it was her responsibility to get the other passengers home.

Mabey said there were plenty of opportunities for her to stop and get out, and he questioned why she would have "stayed put for more indecent assaults".

His application for continued name suppression was declined yesterday by Judge David Smith.

However, Mabey said he would appeal to the High Court, so the man's name must remain under wraps until that appeal is heard.

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The trial is expected to run until Thursday.

- The Dominion Post

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