Sex counts scrapped to avoid 'farce'
A judge has thrown out sex charges against a Christchurch taxi driver, saying it would be "a farce" to continue.
In the Christchurch District Court yesterday, Mohammad Nadir Darwesh was discharged after Judge David Saunders ruled it would be unsafe for any properly instructed jury to find him guilty.
Darwesh had faced two charges each of detaining for sex and indecently assaulting two teenage girls.
It had emerged in court that the two complainants, both now aged 19, had attempted to extort money from the taxi driver just minutes after the alleged assaults in 2007.
Their conduct in the witness box – one girl attempted to storm out before questioning had finished and the other was unable to recall most details – was taken into account by the judge.The Crown case was that the girls had sent text messages to Darwesh and asked for a free taxi ride.
They said he took them to the Pioneer Pool car park and asked them for sex, while touching their breasts and legs and not allowing them to leave the car by locking the doors.
Darwesh contended the girls offered him sex for money, and that he declined.
Defence counsel Paul Norcross applied for the discharge under Section 347 of the Crimes Act after the prosecution finished its case about 12.30pm.
The judge agreed, saying only a jury returning a "perverse" verdict could convict Darwesh on the evidence given.
"It would be, frankly, a farce to continue at this stage."
To the jury, he said: "I see from the nods of some of you that you agree."
The judge said one of the girls had testified she could no longer remember being assaulted. The other was shown to be an unreliable witness, with a criminal record for dishonesty offending that had continued after the alleged incident.
The girls admitted sending Darwesh text messages demanding money or they would tell police he had raped them.
The judge said the alleged indecent assaults were nowhere near rape. Evidence from phone records showed one of the girls had sent five text messages in the time they were in the car with Darwesh, but they had not asked anyone for help.
Applying for the discharge, Norcross said at no time had either girl attempted to unlock the door and walk out, and they were happy to get a ride back to Barrington Mall afterwards.
Darwesh had no previous convictions and had been a police officer in Afghanistan before immigrating in 2004.
The judge told the jury that with the abolition of deposition hearings, the trial was the first chance to see the "true colours" of complainants.
The vice-president of the Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Law Society, Alistair Davis, said a committal hearing would not have helped as complainants in sex trials did not testify at depositions.
There was a "general feeling" in the profession that getting rid of depositions was wrong though, as many cases could be resolved at earlier stages.