Rickards rape trial accuser to take stand

The woman who has accused Auckland's top-ranked policeman and two of his former police colleagues of raping her two decades ago is today expected to give evidence.

Louise Nicholas, from Rotorua, will be one of more than 40 witnesses called to give evidence in the trial against Assistant Commissioner Clint John Rickards, who was in charge of the Auckland police district, and former police officers Bradley Keith Shipton and Robert Francis Schollum, on historic sex offences.

The three are jointly charged with raping Mrs Nicholas when she was aged 18 in the mid-1980s.

Rickards yesterday stood in the dock in police uniform and pleaded not guilty to the historic allegations.

For the first time, the number and nature of the charges the men face is public information, after Justice Tony Randerson lifted suppression orders.

The men are accused of indecent assault, rape and unlawful sexual connection. The 20 charges include two counts of indecent assault using a baton.

Several of the charges are laid representatively, which refers to an offence alleged to have occurred more than once in relation to each charge.

The charges state that the alleged sexual offending happened between September 1, 1985, and December 31, 1986, when the men were police officers in Rotorua.

The three accused pleaded not guilty to each of the charges.

Their wives, other family members and supporters sat together in the public gallery behind them.

Rickards, the only one of the three who is still a police officer, has been suspended since the allegations arose two years ago.

The court proceedings began mid-morning with the selection of a jury of seven women and five men.

The jurors were chosen and settled in by lunchtime but their first day of the trial, expected to last three weeks, was cut short by extensive legal discussions. They were sent home and the court closed for the rest of the day.

Justice Randerson imposed a number of suppression orders on media coverage of the trial but lifted details of the charges the men face.

Christchurch Crown Solicitor Brent Stanaway said the prosecution would call 44 witnesses.

John Haigh, QC, represents Rickards, Bill Nabney appears for Shipton and Paul Mabey, QC, for Schollum. 

 
Uniform in dock is out of order

Rickards may face a reprimand for appearing in the dock in uniform. The Police Commissioner's office confirmed last night that Rickards was not entitled to do so.

Police General Instructions forbid an officer from wearing a uniform while on suspension.   Police spokesman Jon Neilson said Rickards had been reminded of this via his lawyer and asked for an explanation. Such a breach of regulations was usually an internal disciplinary matter, Mr Neilson said.

Rickards was suspended on full pay two years ago after the charges were laid. 


The charges

Clinton John Tukotahi Rickards
* 2 charges of rape (one representative)
* 1 representative charge of sexual violation by rape
* 4 charges of indecent assault (one representative)
* 1 representative charge of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection

Robert Francis Schollum
* 2 charges of rape (one representative charge of rape)
* 4 charges of indecent assault

Bradley Keith Shipton
* 2 charges of rape (one representative)
* 1 representative charge of sexual violation by rape
* 3 charges of indecent assault (one representative)
* 1 representative charge of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection

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