Neighbours' feud: Man found not guilty of indecent act after exposing himself to neighbours security camera in 'act of protest'
Sometimes Vincent Jessett would wave or raise his middle finger to the neighbour's security camera trained on the shared driveway.
On June 30, 2020, he flashed his penis.
Without stopping or breaking stride Jessett opened his fly, pulled down the top of the pants, and momentarily exposed himself, a judge said.
Jessett, 33, said it was a protest against the Upper Hutt neighbour's invasion of his family's privacy.
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In the Hutt Valley District Court, he was found guilty of doing an indecent act with intent to insult or offend.
But a High Court judge has now reversed that decision, quashed the conviction, and said what Jessett did on that day, to that camera, did not constitute an indecent act.
“That conclusion should not be taken by Mr Jessett or others as any form of approval of the conduct,” Justice Andru Isac said in his recent decision from the High Court in Wellington.
Had the nature of the exposure been different, or the image of the act been clearer, the result of the appeal would likely have been very different, the judge said.
The neighbours who shared the double-width driveway had a longstanding feud. The neighbour to Jessett’s father’s property set up a CCTV camera streaming, and recording, footage that could be view on screens in his garden shed, the judge said.
Vincent Jessett knew the camera captured his father’s side of the drive.
The neighbour saw the camera footage later and contacted police.
Jessett first told police that he flashed his penis because of a really long family feud.
By the time the case went to a full hearing in the District Court, he said it was a form of protest, and he often smiled, waved, or showed his middle finger to the camera to show the neighbour that the family knew he watched them.
The District Court judge convicted Jessett and sentenced him to come up if call upon within six months, so nothing more would be done unless he came to police attention within that period.
At the appeal Jessett’s lawyer, Chris Nicholls, argued the fleeting exposure was a protest against the neighbour’s behaviour, which Jessett found intrusive and violating, but was not objectively offensive.
It was reasonably possible that he wanted to be seen expressing himself that he did not like being filmed on his father’s driveway, it was argued.
But the High Court judge said the case turned on whether the act was indecent. It made a difference that the act was done to a camera rather than directly to a person.
The video was 13 seconds long, taken during the day but in the rain with the sun low, causing significant shadows and light reflections.
It was not until the nine-second mark that what was most likely part of a penis appeared for less than a second.
The picture quality was also very poor, being grainy and unfocussed, the judge said.
Viewed objectively, and judging the quality of the act rather than the intention, he was not satisfied it was indecent.
In a different context, the public could see far more explicit, vivid and sustained images of the human body on television after 8.30pm, the judge said.
The part of the security video showing Jessett’s act was brought to the neighbour’s attention by his wife, and the neighbour then went back through the footage looking for it, which reduced the element of an unexpected and unwanted confrontation.
Jessett’s action was not serious enough to warrant legal sanction, but it was offensive and inappropriate, the judge said.