A Southland man accused of sexual offending against a girl has been found not guilty in the High Court in Invercargill.
The jury announced its decision at 3.30pm yesterday, just one hour after it retired to consider its verdict following a three-day trial.
Nicholas Bevan Harvey, who turned 23 yesterday, had denied a charge of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection.
The Crown alleged Harvey went into the lounge of an Invercargill house in July 2012 while the complainant was asleep, knelt down beside her and touched her private parts. Harvey, who has previously been sent to jail for a similar sexual offence, denied the offending ever happened.
During the trial, a defence witness said Harvey was with him in the house when the alleged offending occurred and he had not seen him go into the lounge. Harvey was only out of his sight once, when he briefly went into a room to get some gear, the witness said.
But Crown lawyer Sarah McKenzie, in her closing address yesterday, said the jury could be sure Harvey was alone at times in the house that morning.
She suggested Harvey and the witness had got together before the trial and "ensured there was an explanation which left the defendant no time alone".
Harvey's history included a conviction for sexual violation in 2010, Ms McKenzie said.
"About every two to three years there's an incident like this happening.
" . . . this is a very sad case; Mr Harvey has a sad past, but he also has a pattern of sexual behaviour towards young girls and in July 2012 he slipped back into that pattern."
Defence lawyer Roger Eagles, in his closing address, agreed it was a sad case, saying Harvey's background loomed large in the trial.
There was "no doubt" Harvey had interfered with a female in the past and Harvey had himself been sexually abused by two men, Mr Eagles said.
Any idea of what Harvey thought was sexually appropriate or inappropriate was likely to be confused, he said.
He said Harvey had not sexually violated the girl in July 2012.
With other people in the house, it was one of the worst possible times to do the offending.
"You have to look at the overall likelihood of these events occurring, so I ask you if it's possible she had a flashback . . . or a dream, as was suggested to her . . ."
The case was complicated, Mr Eagles said.
He believed the jurors would have rolled their eyes and thought it "very likely" Harvey was guilty when they opened their jury books at the start of the trial and saw his background. "But by now you will, I am sure, realise the truth can be a bit more complicated."
- The Southland Times