12 Dec 2018

Sports coach cleared of sexual assault charges

6:33 pm on 12 December 2018

A sports coach has been cleared of sexually abusing one of his athletes after jury found him not guilty on all five charges.

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Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The man, who has name suppression, had pleaded not guilty to the charges relating to two incidents in Auckland and Christchurch in 2016 and 2017.

He was accused of forcing himself on a female athlete, who was nearly 40 years younger than him, who he had trained since she was a teenager.

Summing up in the Auckland District Court this morning, Judge Nicola Mathers said the man didn't dispute the pair had sexual contact.

"In respect of each charge the questions in dispute are about consent and belief on reasonable grounds in consent," she told the jury.

"Consent means true consent, freely given by a person who is in a position to make a rational decision. Lack of protest or physical resistance does not of itself amount to consent."

Judge Mathers said if the jury considered beyond reasonable doubt that the woman didn't consent then they must then go further and consider whether the Crown had proven that the man did not believe she was consenting.

She said it was the Crown's case, with the woman giving evidence during the trial, that after a dinner in central Auckland in December 2016 there had been touching and forced oral sex that hadn't been consensual.

The woman also said she had been forced to receive and perform oral sex on him while the pair were staying in a motel in Christchurch in April 2017.

Judge Mathers said prosecutor, David Johnstone, argued it was clear the woman reduced her contact with the coach after the sexual encounters, and confided in others.

"Mr Johnstone says that when you look at the text messages and other evidence you can be satisfied that her evidence is consistent. He points to the number of people she complained to."

For the defence's case Judge Mather said it was the man's evidence that consensual sexual contact began months before the incident on 8 December.

"He said that she was always a willing participant and that everything that they did sexually was consensual. He told you that they would talk about what they wanted to do to each other and hence the text messages you have seen."

Judge Mathers told the jury the man's lawyer, Graeme Newell, put forward that they couldn't rely on the woman's evidence and she had given inconsistent evidence to them.

He had pointed to the fact that the woman had told police the pair had begun making out in October, but then told the jury the incident in December had been the first time.

He put it to them that the woman had presented a different face to the jury than to his client.

After four hours of deliberation the jury returned unanimous not-guilty verdicts on all five charges.

The man fought back tears as he left the dock and returned to the public gallery.