A Northland jury has retired to consider its verdict in the trial of a prominent man charged with indecent acts involving young girls.
The man has denied 12 counts of indecently touching two girls over several years, and he has defended the charges over the past week in the High Court in Whangarei.
The jury retired this afternoon and has gone home for the night.
In his summing up this afternoon, Justice Venning told jurors to set aside any sympathy or prejudice they might have for the girls or the defendant.
If they had heard of the man through his public profile, they were to set that aside and rely only on the evidence they'd heard in court, Justice Venning said.
The judge said jurors needed to consider the physical and mental elements of the charges, and decide what the man's state of mind and intentions were.
The defendant accepted that if the touching had happened as claimed, it would have been inappropriate, but he denied it happened at all.
Justice Venning said the girls had discussed the alleged indecencies with each other, and the jury would need to be satisfied their accounts were not similar because they were made up.
The girls had first complained of the alleged offending some years after it began but there could be good reasons for such delays, the judge said.
Much of the evidence in the case cannot be reported because the law protects the identity of the girls, and the man's name is suppressed by court order for the same reason.
In his closing address earlier today, Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey told the jury the fundamental issue was whether the girls were telling the truth about what happened to them.
He said the evidence showed there had been no concoction or conspiracy by the girls, and they were touched indecently by the man over several years.
Mr Dickey said the man was not an out-and-out monster; he had a positive public persona and had been a convincing witness.
But the indecent touching had always been fleeting, sneaky, opportunistic and confusing for the girls, which was one reason the man got away with it for as long as he did, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor said the man had touched the girls many times on their thighs, breasts, and buttocks.
On one occasion, the accused had pressed one girl's foot against his genitals while giving her a foot massage and, on another, he had pressed his groin up against a girl's bottom while she was cooking, he said.
Defence lawyer Arthur Fairley, in his closing address, said there were serious inconsistencies in the girls' accounts of what had happened.
The allegations conflicted with the accounts of close family members, who had no axe to grind, he said.
Family members had seen the girls ask the man to massage their feet or shoulders, and this had happened in their presence with no indecency observed, Mr Fairley said.
Justice Venning advised the jurors they could consider how witnesses reacted in court but giving evidence could be difficult, and they should give more weight to the evidence itself and use their common sense.
The public seats were full for the judge's summing up and the jury went out at 3.20pm.