19 Oct 2020

Man's rape conviction quashed by Court of Appeal

10:00 pm on 19 October 2020

A man who was jailed for raping a teenage girl has had his convictions quashed, after new evidence came to light.

09082016. Photo Rebekah Parsons-King. Pike River families want mine's CEO to face charges. Court of Appeal Wellington.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Ian Edward Hitchcock was convicted in 2015 of the rape and sexual violation of a 13-year-old girl.

He was also found guilty of two charges of sexual connection with another 14-year-old, supplying cannabis to the two girls and a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The offending against the two girls was alleged to have occurred at Hitchcock's home on a number of occasions between 10 September 2011 and 1 September 2012.

Hitchcock was sentenced to a total of nine and a half years in jail - of those, five years was in relation to the sexual offending against the 13-year-old and four and half years in relation to the sexual offending to the 14-year-old and other offending.

As part of the investigation, police executed a search warrant at Hitchcock's property in 2013 and seized two cellphones.

A series of text messages from the 13-year-old were found on one of the phones following independent forensic laboratory examinations.

The Court of Appeal made the ruling that the messages showed the girl and Hitchcock "enjoyed a warm and friendly relationship" and that her messages "would have laid a very firm foundation" for the defence that any sexual activity between the two was consensual.

"For reasons that have not been explained to us, none of the text messages were disclosed to Mr Hitchcock or his counsel before the trial, or before this court considered Mr Hitchcock's appeal," the judgement said.

The convictions that Hitchcock raped and engaged in unlawful sexual connection with the 13-year-old have thus been quashed.

The Crown advised it will not seek a retrial and suggested the Court of Appeal substitute the convictions with convictions for unlawful sexual connection with a young person.

The court declined to do so, saying that the undisclosed evidence may have damaged the 13-year-old's credibility in the minds of the jurors that they would not convicted Hitchcock in relation to any of her allegations.

The court ruled that Hitchcock should not be subject to any sentence that is cumulative to the quashed sentences and that the remaining sentences be amended accordingly.