'Prominent businessman' sex offender named

A Christchurch woman who told the court of being sexually abused more than 30 years ago, today got her wish - the public naming of Peter Maxwell Stewart as the man she accused.

Until today Stewart's name and all his business interests and even his age were covered by interim suppression orders which had been in place since his arrest in 2006.

Stewart is a son of industrialist Sir Robertson Stewart, who died in August, aged 93.

Sir Robertson founded PDL Industries, known for its electrical fittings, switch gear and motor control equipment.

After 44 years, the Stewarts sold their stake in PDL to French giant Schneider in 2001, netting the family an estimated $97 million.

Stewart's wife is fashion queen Pieter Stewart, managing director of New Zealand Fashion Week.

The couple have four adult children and live on a deer farm in Canterbury.

Stewart's victim, who is now in her 40s, had told Christchurch's High Court of sexual abuse by Stewart from the time she was aged about eight years, until she was 18, the Court News website reported.

The trial went on for two weeks, and she was in the witness box for almost half of it.

Stewart, who is aged 62 and lives at Hororata, denied all 15 charges that he faced at the start of the trial.

Three were ruled out by Justice Graham Panckhurst when the crown completed its case, and the jury could not agree on one of them.

But it found the man guilty on two charges of inducing a girl under 12 to do an indecent act, three counts of indecent assault, one of sodomy, and one of rape.

The victim cannot be named - suppression is automatic for complainants in sex trials - but when the verdicts were returned, crown prosecutor Phil Shamy pressed on her behalf for suppression of Stewart's name to be lifted.

Stewart's defence counsel Jonathan Eaton asked for it to continue until sentencing, when Justice Panckhurst would be able to consider it. Mr Eaton said three of Stewart's family members had provided letters saying they were concerned about the effects publication would have on their own business interests.

But today, Mr Eaton told the court Stewart had given up his bid to keep his name out of the media.

He said it seemed Stewart's name as the "prominent Canterbury businessman" was so widely known in Christchurch that suppression was no longer sought.

Reasons advanced earlier that lifting suppression would affect the business interests of other family members had been addressed in recent days.

"I have clear instructions not to seek a final order for suppression of name and invite Your Honour to lift the order," he said.

Justice Panckhurst lifted suppression and remanded Stewart on bail for sentencing on February 22.

He said the sentencing could not go ahead today mainly because a pre-sentence report on Stewart had not yet been completed.

The judge also raised the question of whether a reparation report would be appropriate. Mr Shamy said he would check with the victim about that before it was prepared.

The report would clear the way for a payment for emotional harm from Stewart to the victim.

Such a payment was discussed between lawyers as a civil claim in 2004 and 2005 before she made her formal complaint to the police.

The woman told the court she dropped the claim when she heard allegations that she was only doing it because she wanted a house and money. That was unfair, she told the court. She only wanted the truth.


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