A Christchurch businessman has been acquitted on three charges of indecently assaulting a female employee and he has won his fight to keep his name and details secret forever.
The case has been before the courts for more than a year but can only now be reported after a judge found the man not guilty on all charges and granted permanent name suppression for both him and his business.
The man was accused of indecently assaulting the employee by kissing her on the mouth, placing her hand on his crotch and kissing her neck.
He denied the accusation, saying it was the woman who "endeavoured to kiss him, and she put her hand on his shorts".
Judge Paul Kellar heard all of the evidence during a three-day trial earlier this month and his final ruling was provided to the Herald.
The court heard that the complainant started working for the man's business just a month before the alleged assault.
She claimed the man quizzed her on her personal life before persuading her to go into a small room with him.
"She said the moment she walked in [the man] shut the door behind her," said Judge Kellar.
"She said it was all very confrontational from there. She said that as [the man] shut the door behind her he put his hand around her neck and pulled her in for a kiss.
"She said that then he dragged her hand and shoved it down his pants and she could feel what she was touching."
She claimed the man grabbed her and kissed her again just after they left the room.
He was then "persistent" and eventually "aggressive" as he tried to persuade her to perform further sexual acts.
"It was about to get to the point where I think he was about to grab me," she told the court.
She said she felt "disgusted and shocked".
Another female employee approached the pair and started chatting.
The complainant said she eventually managed to excuse herself from the conversation and "got into her car and left as fast as she could".
She went straight home and told her partner what had happened at work - and then reported the alleged incident to the police.
The businessman was arrested the next day and in a lengthy police interview, said the complainant was the one who initiated the contact.
He claimed she hugged him and said: "you are such a good boss. I really like older guys… I like the gold jewellery and the tattoos".
He told police she followed him inside the room when he went to check on some newly installed fittings.
She then "went to kiss him and touch him at the same time saying that she liked him".
The man said he declined her advance and then told her it "can't be done" when she went to kiss him a second time.
"He said he was flattered that she liked older guys but that they were at work and there were cameras everywhere," Judge Kellar said.
He said the woman "apologised for what had happened before" and he told her "it was no big deal".
At the trial Judge Kellar heard evidence from the complainant directly as well as what she told police.
He also heard from the businessman and several witnesses who cannot be identified.
He was also provided with CCTV footage.
While the cameras did not cover the area where the woman said the assault happened, it captured the pair immediately before and after the alleged incident.
Judge Kellar said nothing looked amiss beforehand and after the complainant "appears to be smiling and laughing".
That was "at odds" with her evidence that she "felt disgusted and shocked".
"She is making eye contact with [the man] and appears to have a huge smile on her face," he said.
"[She] appears to be looking at him smiling and laughing."
Judge Kellar was "very mindful" of the dynamic between the businessman and his younger employee.
He said he must also "exercise great caution" in placing weight on how the complainant appeared on the CCTV footage because "people do not always react the way one would expect" after an indecent assault.
However, he said the CCTV footage "appears to be inconsistent with what [the woman] says happened and how she was feeling at the time".
After considering all of the evidence presented at trial, Judge Kellar ruled that the Crown had not satisfied him beyond reasonable doubt that the complainant was a "reliable and credible witness".
"There was a disconnect in several material respects between what she told police, what she said in evidence-in-chief, what she said in cross-examination, and the objective evidence of the CCTV footage," he said.
"The CCTV footage paints quite a different picture to what [the woman] described
in several material respects."
Judge Kellar said while the alleged incident was not filmed, what happened before and after was captured on camera and was "markedly at odds" with what the complainant told the court.
"Her evidence leaves me with a reasonable doubt as to [the businessman's] guilt," he said.
"In any event, I cannot exclude what [he] told police as being a reasonable possibility… there is a remarkable similarity between what he told the police and what the CCTV footage shows.
"Furthermore… I cannot exclude his account of what happened in the [room] as being a
Judge Kellar found the man not guilty on all charges.
He then granted the man's application for permanent name suppression - to protect his identity and the name and reputation of his business.
SEXUAL HARM - DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact the Safe to Talk confidential crisis helpline on:
• Text 4334 and they will respond
• Email email@example.com
• Visit https://safetotalk.nz/contact-us/ for an online chat
Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list.
If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.