High profile Otago man appeals indecency conviction

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A high-profile Otago man has appeared in court to appeal against an indecency conviction and argue for permanent name suppression.

The man, who has interim name suppression, pleaded guilty in the Dunedin District Court in August last year to a charge of performing an indecent act intended to insult or offend a woman.

At the Court of Appeal in Wellington today, his lawyer, Jonathan Eaton QC said his client, in a bid to avoid a public trial, pleaded guilty on the understanding he would be offered diversion or a discharge without conviction.

The advice, from his previous lawyer, that the Crown would not oppose the sentence options, however, was incorrect.

At the district court hearing he was convicted and ordered to pay $5000 emotional harm reparation and $1500 counselling costs. Today, Crown lawyer Madeleine Laracy said it would have been "irresponsible" of the Crown not to ask the court to look at the aggravating features of the crime, which included a breach of trust and the fact the offence happened in the victim's home.

The man took a chance in pleading guilty and assuming he would escape conviction, she said.

"There was a risk associated with this, there was no guaranteed outcome."

She said the man was now arguing his behaviour was not criminal, despite saying in an affidavit that he pleaded guilty because he deeply regretted his actions.

An agreed statement of facts said the man and the victim's family were acquaintances. When the man visited their home late last year, he and the victim went into the kitchen where the victim was to make a cup of tea.

The man approached her, attempted to kiss and touch her on the outside of her clothing, and then performed the indecent act. The woman rejected his advances and her husband and a family member arrived soon after.

The victim made the men tea before leaving with the family member to go shopping.

Today, the Court of Appeal judges said they did not have the jurisdiction to make a ruling on the permanent name suppression arguments, and sent the matter back to the High Court at Dunedin.

They reserved their judgement on the appeal against conviction.

- additional reporting Otago Daily Times

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