Direction by rape-trial judge fine, says court

Last updated 08:16 14/02/2013

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Timaru District Court Judge Joanna Maze gave a jury sufficient direction over the demeanour of a crying witness in a rape case, the Supreme Court has found.

The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Benjamin Izaak Stanley against conviction on charges of rape and unlawful sexual violation.

Stanley was found guilty in the Timaru District Court of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and three charges of sexual violation by rape.

The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against conviction last year, and in a decision released this week, the Supreme Court has done the same.

Stanley was 19 when the offending occurred.

He sought leave to appeal on the basis that Judge Maze should have given a direction warning the jury against placing weight on the demeanour of the complainant who had cried shortly after the incident, during the police interview two weeks later, and during much of her testimony.

The Court of Appeal found in the circumstances the judge was not obliged to comment on what the jury might make of the complainant crying in the witness box or warn them against placing weight on it.

Stanley's counsel for the appeal, Jonathan Eaton, queried whether New Zealand courts should give a demeanour direction.

"While the content of and circumstances in which it is appropriate to give such a direction may raise questions of general importance in a particular case, we are satisfied that this was not such a case," the Supreme Court judgment said.

"What directions are required in any given summing up is, as the Court of Appeal said, 'a case-specific issue'. We agree with the Court of Appeal that, in the circumstance of this case no further direction was required."

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- The Timaru Herald

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