17 Oct 2022

Complainants in sexual assault case confused, defence argues

9:00 pm on 17 October 2022
Wellington District Court

Two friends say they were groped in bed by the defendant, whose lawyer says they must be confused. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

A defence lawyer told a court today his client was not involved in sexual and indecent assaults, telling two complainants they had confused what happened.

The 25-year-old man faces charges of rape - which were canvassed in court last week - and indecent assaults and sexual violation, which were the subjects of today's testimonies and questioning.

Today two women - who were friends and who were the fifth and sixth complainants - told the court they were groped while in the same bed, and one woke to the accused performing a sexual act on her.

During cross-examination, the defendant's lawyer Val Nisbet said his client simply did not do it.

"He's not saying he didn't have contact with you on the evening.

"And he's not saying he was never in the same bed... he's saying he's there, but he did nothing to you and that if it happened, as you recall it, that it was either with someone else, or was another night, at another party, at another time."

Complainants allege assaults in the same bed

In video evidence, the fifth complainant said she went to drink at an apartment with her friend - the sixth complainant - whose boyfriend at the time lived there, and who was friends with the defendant.

The fifth complainant said she and her friend eventually went to bed together, later joined in the same bed by her friend's boyfriend, and they fell asleep.

She said the defendant later got into bed uninvited, pushing the women over so he could fit - and they asked him why he was there.

"I think he said he just wanted to get away or something like that, he just wanted to sleep," the complainant said.

He soon started "aggressively" grabbing her breasts, back and bottom, once pulling her hair, she said. She repeatedly pushed him away and told him to stop.

He then reached over her and groped her friend - the sixth complainant, who testified to the same thing, saying the accused grabbed her bottom and was touching her back, she said.

"[It was] extremely invasive, and it was quite sexual, it made me like, feel really, really uncomfortable," said the sixth complainant.

"Each time I would push his hand away and look back, he would have his eyes closed," she said, saying he was pretending to be asleep.

The sixth complainant said the defendant eventually stopped, and she clung to her sleeping boyfriend.

"I was too scared to roll back around especially in case he tried to touch anywhere else, and just hoped it wouldn't happen again.

"I didn't know what to do."

The fifth complainant said after falling asleep, she later awoke to the defendant performing a sexual act on her.

Complainant claimed assault was planned

The fifth complainant said she believed her drink was spiked that night, something the defendant's group of friends often did as a "game".

During the evening she began to feel "sick and spaced out", and was told by her friend's boyfriend that she had been spiked by one of the men (not the defendant), she said.

"They'll spike each other without anyone else knowing and think it's fun, or funny.

"I have had it happen to me more than once when with [friend's boyfriend] or his friends."

The complainant described the male group's behaviour throughout the night as pushy and arrogant towards women.

"I think throughout the whole night they had their intentions set on what they were going to do, just me and [sixth complainant] didn't pick up on it."

Memories called into question

Throughout this trial, complainants and witnesses have struggled to remember details about the incidents which happened between 2017 and 2020.

There have also been discrepancies between complainants' initial video statements, and their evidence in court - and differences between complainant and witness recollections of how things played out.

The complainants today had different views about which weekend the alleged assaults took place, as well as their movements before ending up at the apartment.

The sixth complainant also said she and her friend had knowingly taken MDMA twice that night, and had smoked cannabis.

The trial continues tomorrow and it is expected the defendant will testify.