21 Nov 2023

Trial for man accused of sexual offending against Gloriavale children gets underway

8:24 am on 21 November 2023
Jonathan Benjamin at Greymouth District Court.

Jonathan Benjamin in the dock at his trial for sex crimes involving children. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

The trial of a man accused of committing serious sexual offending against children at Gloriavale will begin this morning in Greymouth.

Jonathan Benjamin is charged with various sexual offences against children and young women, including four counts of rape, from his time with the reclusive Christian community between 1986 and 2017.

At least one of the complainants was aged 12 or younger at the time of the alleged offending.

Some of the charges date back to the community's former Springbank site in North Canterbury, while others related to his time at the current site in Haupiri, on the West Coast.

Benjamin entered not guilty pleas to 20 charges, but pleaded guilty to one charge of indecent assault of a girl aged 12-16.

Judge Mark Callaghan during Raniera Sonny Tau's sentencing in Invercargill on 11 August 2016.

Judge Mark Callaghan. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Three of the charges were representative, meaning multiple offences of the same type were alleged to have been committed in similar circumstances.

A jury of six women and six men was empanelled on Monday, with Judge Mark Callaghan expected to begin opening remarks on Tuesday.

The trial has been set down for three weeks at Greymouth District Court.

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