1 Mar 2019

Woman charged with contempt of court in Taimo trial discharged

11:44 am on 1 March 2019

A woman charged after approaching jurors in a high profile child sex abuse trial has been discharged without penalty and will keep her name secret.

Coat of Arms inside the High Court in Rotorua

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

She appeared for sentencing before Justice Moore at the High Court in Auckland this morning.

The woman, in her 50s, was charged with contempt of court in October last year after engaging with two jurors in the seventh week of Alosio Taimo's trial.

The jurors were approached by the woman when smoking outside the courthouse and later reported what happened to Justice Moore, who relayed what they told him this morning.

"She engaged in small talk and said 'I know I'm not supposed to talk to you. I was unsure at the start but now I think the truth is coming out. I think he's telling the truth. It makes you wonder if the real culprit is out there'."

Taimo was later found guilty of 95 sex charges against 17 complainants dating back three decades and jailed for 22 years last week.

Justice Moore said the jurors told him the woman then went to fetch some muffins she had made.

The judge said the jury told him in a follow up note they did not feel they had been swayed or persuaded by the woman.

The note was signed by the jury's foreman, who added the approach had been frustrating because the jurors had tried their best to be professional during the lengthy trial.

In discussing the matter with counsel, the Judge said Taimo's lawyer Panama Le'au'anae reported the woman had also approached him and asked if she could go down to the cells to bless his client; a request that was refused.

When the woman was brought into the court she confirmed she had spoken with the jurors but said she was just being friendly, he said.

Justice Moore said she was taken to the cells and assigned a lawyer, Aaron Perkins QC.

This morning the court heard a forensic report found the woman was having a psychotic episode at the time.

Justice Moore said contempt of court struck at the heart of the justice system and would normally attract jail time but it was impossible to rationalise the woman's conduct.

He said there was a good body of evidence to show the woman was not mentally well at the time and said he was satisfied she had limited criminality.

The judge described the woman's actions as a "grossly inept, overt and an unsophisticated attempt to engage the jury".

"You are a good person and have previously made a positive contribution to our society. You have never been in trouble before so this behaviour, on any analysis, was bizarre and inexplicable."

Justice Moore discharged her without penalty and granted permanent name suppression.

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