Nelson Mail 3 Nov 2012
Fathers beware. Giving your child a kiss and cuddle in public could land you in court.
While pleased to walk free from the court, the father is disturbed at what happened. Particularly concerning was the police refusal to take statements from independent witnesses in his support. A Wellington family, which had never met the family until camping at the reserve, only became aware of the charges in August last year. The mother then wrote to Motueka police saying she saw the events at close range and could give an impartial account. Another couple at the domain who knew the family said it was inconceivable that anything inappropriate could have happened. It was daylight, with a large number of people around the playground, and camp sites next to it. If anything inappropriate had happened they would have intervened, the man said. Another woman, a nurse, who was there also said the accusations were nonsense. Yet the police did not interview these witnesses.
January 3 and 4 2011: Family visit McKee Domain, Ruby Bay, along with 300 others. Other visitors allege inappropriate behaviour between father and daughter, report to caretaker who calls police. Constable arrives and father denies any wrongdoing.
March 24: Police arrive at family home with search warrant for shirt and dress. Father taken to Motueka police station, arrested for indecent assault on 10-year-old daughter.
March 25: Father appears in court, bailed with conditions not to contact family.
June 21: Father’s lawyer Brett Daniell-Smith applies for an oral evidence order to hear evidence of witnesses.
July: Lawyer asks police to review decision to charge father. Detective Sergeant Craig Johnston responds that police have six credible accounts of indecent behaviour and he believes the father has been correctly charged.
August 29: Judge Ellis grants an oral evidential order for three defence witnesses, bail conditions relaxed but father not allowed home.
September 29: After eight months father gets 1 hours of supervised contact with two younger daughters.
November 25: Oral evidence called at committal hearing at Nelson District Court. JPs rule there is no case to answer and discharge father.
March 7 2012: Police apply to the High Court at Nelson to re-lay charges, arguing the JPs have exceeded their function.
April 16: Application heard, Justice Miller agrees that the JPs were wrong and trial date set for October.
July 11: Judge Bruce Davidson declines application from father’s lawyer for a discharge, saying it is up to a jury to decide.
October: Jury trial, Crown re-lays charge with eight counts of indecent assault. After the father has given evidence, the father’s lawyer applies for him to be discharged saying there is insufficient evidence, and the identity of the complainant in each charge is uncertain. The trial is halted and none of the defence witnesses called. Judge Behrens discharges the father.