21 Oct 2020

Judge hears closing arguments on abuse trial, reserves decision

3:24 pm on 21 October 2020

The judge presiding over the trial of a man accused of physically and sexually abusing his ex-girlfriend has reserved his decision.

Entrance to the High Court in Auckland

The man is on trial at the High Court at Auckland. Photo: justice.govt.nz

The defendant, who has interim name suppression, has been on trial for the past two days in the High Court at Auckland.

The man denies subjecting the woman to an escalating period of physical and sexual violence during their six month relationship.

He faces two charges of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, three charges of male assaults female, two of assault with a weapon and one of threatening to kill.

Justice Brewer reserved his decision after hearing closing statements from both prosecution and defence this morning.

The woman's story

The woman has described, in a police DVD interview and in person in court, a period of escalating violence during her relationship with the defendant.

She said he slapped her face during an argument the first time he hit her and went on to threaten her with knives and push and shove her during fights.

The woman recalled one particular night the man tried to kill her; chasing her with a knife before putting her in a choke hold and demanding oral sex.

She said the man threatened to kill her and her family if she did not comply and then forced her to perform other sexual acts against her will.

Her flatmate told the court he overheard the couple arguing and once heard what sounded like someone being pushed or shoved in the garage when he was in his bedroom.

He said he did not intervene when he overheard their disputes, saying "It wouldn't have been something I should have got myself involved in".

The woman stayed in the relationship a further three months until she found messages on the man's phone that showed he was speaking to another woman.

She left the man and went to a local police station with her father to make a formal complaint and seek a protection order against the man, which she was granted.

The court heard she financially supported the man during their relationship by covering their shared rent, paying other expenses and directly transferring him money.

The complainant said she just wanted to be loved and felt it was safer to stay and keep the man close than leave and live a life looking over her shoulder.

The Crown's case

Closing the Crown's case this morning, prosecutor Fiona Culliney said the woman's testimony was so detailed, unique and ghastly it couldn't possibly be made up.

Culliney said text messages in which the defendant acknowledged wrongdoing and his generally manipulative and controlling behaviour also corroborated the woman's story.

The lawyer told the court the woman's omission of any sexual abuse allegations when she first spoke to police was not uncommon and did not undermine her truthfulness.

"It's perhaps understandable that [the woman] did not want to divulge the intimate details of her abuse that she'd sustained over the last several months when her father was present in the room.

"No doubt she was embarrassed, ashamed she'd stayed in a violent relationship, hadn't asked for help sooner, embarrassed at how she'd been treated by the person she loved, literally stripped of her savings and treated appallingly in the process."

Culliney said a letter the woman penned the night she said the man tried to kill her was "hugely powerful" evidence that further corroborated her story and any suggestion she'd faked it was simply untrue.

The defence

The man's lawyer Belinda Sellars QC has said her client accepted he had abused the woman emotionally and financially but not physically or sexually.

"It is clear and it is accepted that [he] behaved badly in his relationship with [her]. It is accepted and apparent from the text messages that he took her money, was unfaithful and repeatedly made promises that he did not keep.

"In these circumstances I submit [she] has very good reasons to be extremely upset and angry at [him]. It was an abusive relationship financially and emotionally and that is very clear but it's not accepted that [he] was physically or sexually violent."

Sellars said there were significant differences in what the woman first told police and the evidence she gave in person during this weeks' judge-alone trial.

She told Justice Brewer the complainant's evidence was not credible or reliable, and she had said that the timeline of her memories was blurry.

"Her relationship with [him] was traumatic but it appears her heightened emotions have disorted her memories or led to exaggeration or fabrication.

"She gave evidence of counselling, some of her phrases seemed to reflect counselling like 'denial of touch', and it's generally accepted that telling and retelling can change memories; that memory is not a video tape to be replayed."

The man elected not to give or call any evidence.