A jury deliberated for about two hours on Friday before returning with a not guilty verdict for a 23-year-old Blenheim man who faced nine counts of indecent assault against two underage girls.
Zane Russell Greer stood trial in the Blenheim District Court before Judge Peter Butler from Wednesday to Friday last week. Mr Greer had denied all nine charges of indecently assaulting the girls, who were aged 13 and 14 at the time of the alleged offending in August last year. The charges included touching the girls' breasts, putting his hands down their pants and kissing them.
Defence lawyer Philip Watson said it was "the right result" in a difficult case, as the complainants had changed their stories. Crown prosecutor Sophie O'Donoghue refused to comment on the verdict.
The alleged offending was said to have taken place on August 5 last year, when the 13-year-old girl and her 14-year-old friend were left in the care of a female boarder when her mother went to Nelson. Both girls and the boarder had been drinking, and Mr Greer had been smoking cannabis.
Ms O'Donoghue told the court the complainants' accounts had a "ring of truth" for several reasons, which included the similar pattern of offending against both girls, one of the girls' changed behaviour, which was noticed by her mother on her return from Nelson, and their visit to a school guidance counsellor at the earliest opportunity.
"These indecent assaults actually happened," she said.
Mr Watson said the trial came down to who was telling the truth. Actions, body language and demeanour were among the ways of determining credibility, he said. The evening had involved a combination of alcohol, drugs and hormones. "They were emotional, stupid little girls getting drunk."
Mr Greer had gone to the police of his own accord to tell them the truth after hearing through the "grapevine" that they wanted to speak to him about the allegations.
- © Fairfax NZ News