Acquitted Nicholas-case trio face new sex trial

By Nicola Boyes

The three men acquitted of raping Louise Nicholas face another High Court trial in relation to alleged sexual offending against another woman.

Assistant Police Commissioner Clint Rickards and former policemen Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum are alleged to have committed the crimes during the 1980s.

The three were acquitted by a High Court jury in March of 20 charges, including the alleged rape, sexual violation and indecent assault of Mrs Nicholas when she was a Rotorua teenager.

The Herald supported the right to publish the fact that the three men are to face another trial before the High Court at Auckland.

The complainant, who has name suppression, is a different woman from Mrs Nicholas.

In a reserved judgment released yesterday, Justice Tony Randerson has allowed the media to publish the fact of another trial.

However, extensive suppression orders remain in force surrounding the upcoming case and the Nicholas trial.

All that can be said is that the case relates to allegations of sexual offending by all three men against another woman in the 1980s.

A trial date is yet to be set.

The editor of the Herald, Tim Murphy, said the judge's ruling was a victory for the public's right to know and to understand what went on in the courts. "The Court of Appeal has made it clear that matters before the courts ought to start from a position of openness.

"The public's right to know what happens in court should only be curtailed when publicity would demonstrably prejudice the case."

Mr Murphy said the "complex web of suppressions" had been more damaging to the interests of justice than it had been effective in preserving the rights of the accused.

Lifting the suppression on the fact of a further trial would help remove speculation on the case.

The acquittals in the Nicholas case set off a storm of protest, with women's groups distributing information that the court had suppressed.

Discussion threads were started on websites and public marches and demonstrations were held.

Rickards, who has had a meteoric rise through police ranks, from undercover police officer to Auckland district commander, has been stood down from duties since he was charged last year.

He has been studying law at the University of Auckland.

After the verdicts in March it was said that discussions were to begin regarding Rickards' future employment, with Deputy Commissioner Lyn Provost and Rickards' lawyer, John Haigh, QC, holding talks.

Mr Haigh could not be reached last night.

Police spokesman Jon Neilson told the Herald that Rickards would remain stood down from duties.

"The court process takes precedent. Nothing changes," Mr Neilson said.

Mrs Nicholas' allegations surfaced in January 2004. The police inquiry took 14 months before Rickards, Shipton and Schollum were charged and it was another 12 months before they stood trial.

Mrs Nicholas alleged the three men, all police officers in Rotorua at the time, had raped, sexually violated and indecently assaulted her in 1985 and 1986.

During the trial the men admitted having sex and, at times, group sex with Mrs Nicholas but they said it was always consensual.

Mrs Nicholas alleged at the trial that Shipton and Rickards had visited her Corlett St flat between six and 12 times in 1985 for sex she did not consent to.

She also told the court that in January 1986 she had been taken to a police house in Rutland St, Rotorua, by Schollum.

Rickards and Shipton and a fourth unknown man were waiting at the house, she said.

Mrs Nicholas alleged the men took turns at raping her before indecently assaulting her with a police baton.

The men said the incident was a complete fabrication.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 25 Jul 2014 15:41:49 Processing Time: 914ms