Artist's rape charge dismissed

Napier sculptor and artist Paratene Matchitt walked free from the High Court at Napier yesterday after a judge dismissed charges over the alleged date-rape of a woman last year.

Judge Forrest Miller discharged the 72-year-old after hearing a short pre-trial application by defence lawyer Adam Couchman that there was insufficient evidence for the case to go to trial.

Matchitt had faced one charge of rape, one of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and one of indecent assault relating to incidents alleged to have happened in a 29-year-old woman's home after they dined together in a Napier restaurant on October 14 last year.

It was alleged Matchitt followed the woman home, entered her house uninvited, and had sex with her without her consent after she passed out, and that she was unaware of what had happened until she awoke the next morning.

The trial was scheduled to start yesterday.

Justice Miller ruled there was no evidence on which a jury could properly conclude sexual intercourse had taken place, nor that the woman had been drugged.

Samples taken after the complaint did not reveal the presence of a stupefying agent.

"These are serious charges, and I recognise that date rape is a particularly despicable crime," the judge said. "Nonetheless, I conclude that the jury could not properly convict on this evidence, because a conclusion that she was drugged would be speculative.

"It appears that the police did everything necessary to take samples, and the decision not to test for [a substance the name of which has been suppressed] resulted from the 16-hour delay in the complaint. That is to be regretted."

The officer in charge of the inquiry, Detective Emmet Lynch, of Napier CIB, said the woman and the police were "very disappointed".

"In cases of this nature, scientific evaluation centred on the detection of disabling substances is a field which is extremely difficult to both analyse and interpret," he said.

"All that police can ask for to negate repeats of this nature in future inquiries is for complainants to immediately contact their medical practitioner or police to provide early specimens if there is any suspicious occurrences whatsoever."

Matchitt, who married girlfriend Susana Lustig while on remand awaiting trial, was not immediately prepared to comment. But Mr Couchman said: "I think he's relieved it's all over."

- HAWKE'S BAY TODAY

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