A jury in the Whangarei District Court has found a Northland church leader accused of using his trusted position to prey on vulnerable young girls guilty on most of the charges.

Brian Sanders chose to defend 49 charges, including nine alternative charges, in respect of 13 complainants and his alleged actions took place between 1998 and 2013.

The jury retired to consider their verdicts at 3.30pm on Thursday after Judge Duncan Harvey summed up the case following a three-week trial.

They worked until 9pm on Thursday before resuming at 9am yesterday.


The verdicts were delivered at 12.05pm yesterday.

Sanders was found guilty on 15 charges of indecency with a girl between 12 and 16, 12 of sexual conduct with a child under the age of 12, three of indecent assault, two of sexual conduct with a young person under 16, two of rape, two of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection

The jury found him not guilty on six charges of indecency with a girl between 12 and 16, two of sexual conduct with a child under 12, two of indecent assault, and one of rape.

The offences he was found guilty of happened when Sanders was president of the Bream Bay branch of the Latter Day Saints Church and when he helped his wife run an after-school programme in the Far North.

Sanders has been remanded in custody for sentencing on April 28.

Judge Harvey ordered a full pre-sentence report and an updated victim impact statement. He indicated sentencing would take a full day.

The Crown case during trial was that Sanders used his trusted position in the community to prey on vulnerable young girls, exchanging gifts such as pet rabbits, cigarettes, chocolates, clothing and money in exchange for his sexual gratification and their silence.

Sanders denied the offences as alleged by the complainants ever happened.

He elected to give evidence and called his wife to testify as part of the defence case. None of the allegations of sexual impropriety were true and if there was any touching there was no indecency involved, he told the jury.