9 May 2019

Boys' evidence of indecent acts does not bear scrutiny, defence lawyer says

6:26 pm on 9 May 2019

The defence in the case of a former teacher charged with indecently touching boys says some of their claims are lies to fit a "deceitful narrative".

Former Auckland high school teacher Benjy Swann has appeared in the Auckland High Court and is accused of doing indecent acts on boys.

Defendant Benjamin Swann Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Benjamin Christopher Missi Swann denies 10 charges of an indecent act on a young person, relating to seven boys.

Both the Crown and the defence made their final arguments to the jury in the High Court in Auckland today.

Defence lawyer Sam Wimsett said Mr Swann had been a dedicated, responsible and respected school teacher for over 30 years.

He said the 55-year-old now faced a nightmare - sexual misconduct allegations - which Mr Swann claimed was an attempt to sabotage him.

Mr Wimsett addressed the jury directly. "If it's possible that Mr Swann is telling the truth, then that is not guilty, because that is reasonable doubt. Is it possible Mr Swann is telling the truth? Of course it is, " Mr Wimsett said.

"The defence says the evidence supports his innocence, let alone it being a reasonable possibility."

A lot of the details of the case can't be reported so the complainants aren't able to be identified.

Mr Wimsett earlier said the boys' stories contained some elements of truth - but also half-truths and outright falsehoods - like all the best lies do. He said they didn't stand up to scrutiny, and that one boy's evidence not only contradicted other complainants, but himself.

"He actively lied, and then he doubled down on that lie when the first lie was gently pointed out to him. The defence says it's not a lie you can ignore; it's a lie to fit a deceitful narrative."

In summing up the Crown's case, prosecutor David Stevens said all seven boys gave consistent accounts of the alleged offending.

He said there was no suggestion they colluded, and it would be remarkable, if these allegations were made up, that they were all so similar.

"It is not by chance that each of the seven boys described a variation of the same conduct. That is not a coincidence. They each describe similar conduct because the defendant did similar things to each boy," he said.

Mr Stevens gave a number of examples from the defendant's evidence which he said were implausible.

He said the touching was deliberate and indecent, and that it was a simple case. "If you are sure that touching happened, then that means you are sure of the defendant's guilt," Mr Stevens said.

Mr Wimsett said the onus was on the prosecution to prove Mr Swann's guilt, rather than the defence to disprove the allegations.

He said Mr Swann's denials could not be ruled out, and that whether he was telling the truth was at the very least a reasonable possibility.

"There are question marks about each of the complainants. There are implausibilities; there are lies. And when you put all those things together, I say on behalf of Mr Swann the proper outcome is one of not guilty."

The judge, Justice Duffy, will sum up the case tomorrow, before the jury retires to consider the verdict.