A New Plymouth jury has found a former traffic officer guilty on all seven charges of sexually assaulting and grooming three young teenage girls.
Truck driver Garry William Austin, 64, was remanded in custody prior to sentencing on May 6. One of the reasons given for imprisoning him was for his own safety, after he attempted to kill himself when he was first charged two years ago.
Austin had denied three charges of sexual conduct with underage girls and four charges of sexual grooming in that he touched the girls' breasts, and asked to have sex with them.
The three girls, all of whom gave evidence in the week-long trial, were aged between 13 and 15 at the time.
The court heard that Austin bought them presents and took them for driving lessons - one of them at night.
Austin spun tales to gain the sympathy and the trust of the girls and their parents, jurors were told.
He told some he had prostate cancer, told others he knew top police officers in New Plymouth and had been in the army's special forces overseas where he had killed people.
He did serve time in the army as a truck driver and as a traffic officer but, while giving evidence in his own defence, said he had never been in the special forces and nor did he have cancer.
The jury rejected all of his claims, finding him guilty on all counts with unanimous verdicts. They took just over three hours to return their verdict.
Crown solicitor Cherie Clarke called for Austin to be remanded in custody prior to sentencing because of the likelihood he would be sentenced to jail and because of concerns for his personal safety.
Outside court, his lawyer, Barry Henderson, revealed Austin had attempted to kill himself after the charges were first laid.
There were concerns he may again attempt to suicide following the guilty verdicts.
Earlier in court Mr Henderson asked the judge to give his client bail on humanitarian grounds. Mr Henderson disagreed that jail was inevitable.
Judge Allan Roberts said prison was almost a certainty and he was not prepared to give him bail.
The judge also cited issues of Austin's personal safety.
Judge Roberts postponed convicting Austin before sentencing.
He noted that the charges qualified as strike offences.
Outside court, the officer in charge of the case, Detective Nicky Spicer, of the New Plymouth CIB, said the verdicts were a good result for the young victims who were believed by the jury.
The girls and their families had been waiting for the trial since August 2012.
"Justice has finally been done," Ms Spicer said.
- Taranaki Daily News
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