Jury can't agree on rape charge

By Court Reporter


Despite many hours in court, a Wanganui jury was unable to agree on verdicts for most of the major charges in a rape trial.

The trial related to alleged incidents at a party in Wanganui in January last year.

Members of the jury could not agree on the verdicts on a charge of rape, a charge of sexual violation and an indecent assault charge against Francis John Haami Potaka, aged 25. But they did find him not guilty on two other indecent assault charges and guilty on a charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

The result was similar for Michael Ron Te Weri, 20. The jury could not agree on whether he was guilty of a sexual violation and an indecent assault charge, but found him not guilty on two other indecent assault charges and guilty on a charge of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

The third co-accused, Jesse Akuhata Ngataierua Brider, 19, was found not guilty on a single indecent assault charge.

The seven women and five men in the jury were unanimous in finding Potaka and Te Weri guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

That verdict was reached on the basis of a text exchange between the two.

They were remanded on bail, and will be sentenced on January 31.

The remaining rape, indecent assault and sexual violation charges will be back before the court on November 30. That is when the Crown will say whether it seeks another trial. Potaka and Te Weri will not have to appear on that occasion.

Crown prosecutor Harry Mallalieu would make no comment, except to say the Crown would now consider whether it wanted another trial. If that happened it would be the third for this case - the first was a mistrial.

The jury could not reach a unanimous or eleven to one verdict on most of the charges, despite about 10 hours' deliberation. Yesterday morning it asked an additional question, about whether texts sent by the accused could be used as evidence.

Judge David Cameron thanked jury members for their concentration and commitment throughout. He said there was clearly no point in their continuing to deliberate.

The female complainant, 17 at the time of the alleged offences, cannot be named.

Mr Brider's lawyer, Stephen Ross, said the case was complex. He and fellow defence lawyers Roger Crowley and Mark Bullock argued that the complainant, alleged offenders and witnesses at the party were so drunk that they could not be sure of anything.

That was clearly why the jury could not agree on the major charges, he said.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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