Man guilty in indecent touching case

Last updated 17:05 22/11/2013

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A 44-year-old Nelson man has been found guilty of indecently assaulting five girls between the ages of 6 and 12.

A nine-man, three-woman jury took two hours to convict the man on all charges at the Nelson District Court this afternoon.

His name and occupation are to remain suppressed until December 7.

Nelson police detective Steven Arnold said the conviction was the result of ‘‘a big investigation, which took some time to get to court’’.

‘‘But it’s a great to have this result for the victims and their families.’’

Earlier, defence and prosecution both closed by painting contrasting pictures of the accused.

Crown prosecutor Mark O'Donoghue described the man as a paedophile who targeted children in public and took opportunities to sexually assault them when their mothers were not present.

Defence lawyer Tony Bamford said his client had a reasonable explanation for each allegation, as well as an alibi for two of the charges.

The first complainant was mistaken about the accused's intention when he touched her in the Pak 'n Save supermarket, Mr Bamford said.

"She interpreted what happened as something that was inappropriate, but it does not mean to say that the intent was indecent," Mr Bamford said.

On the charges relating to two sisters aged 6 and 10, the prosecution had failed to positively identify his client, he said.

"The Crown says the girls' description ‘loosely fits'. Well, quite simply, ‘loose fit' doesn't cut it. That's not enough to convict.

"Is someone really suggesting that this man deliberately followed [the children] along in the hope that mum would disappear somewhere?

"I suggest you can be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn't him."

As for charges from the ASB Aquatic and Fitness Centre in Richmond in 2012, Mr Bamford told the jury they were "left in a position where you can't be sure what happened at all".

His client denied pulling a young girl onto his knee, saying she fell backwards on him and landed on his hand. And contact he had with a 7-year-old girl's backside, which she described as having a "tickle, tickle, tickle" motion, was entirely accidental, Mr Bamford said.

He said there were elements of doubt riddled throughout the case.

Mr Bamford conceded there were aspects of his client's lifestyle that the jury might consider unusual, but he urged them not to let prejudice influence their verdict.

"He lives, at the age of 43 or so, with his mother. That's unusual, but it's not relevant."

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In contrast, Mr O'Donoghue told the jury to take a holistic approach to the evidence, saying the accused had a propensity for opportunistic sexual offending toward children, and had come up with "every defence known to man" to explain away his crimes.

"The Crown says it's intrinsically unlikely these independent witnesses have made up similar stories.

"Have you heard the expression; ‘lightning only strikes once'?", he asked the jury.

"It would seem that lightning has struck [the accused] five times. It just cannot be explained by coincidence.

- The Nelson Mail

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