A once highly respected church leader who was convicted of sexual offences against two girls has had his bid to overturn his convictions rejected.
The man, who has name suppression, was found guilty and convicted in May last year of one charge of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and eight charges of indecent assault on a child under 12, including two representative charges.
The two victims were his niece and her friend, both of whom attended the man's South Island church- which also can't be identified- and socialised with he and his family regularly, according to a just-released Court of Appeal judgment.
The girls alleged the man molested them at his home, at a playground, and at the church, with one of the complainants giving evidence at trial that the offending happened, "every time he got the chance".
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After being found guilty at trial he was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment in August last year. But at a hearing in February this year he challenged the convictions, alleging the sentencing judge made errors in his summing up to the jury.
At the appeal hearing the man argued through his lawyer that the judge had wrongly indicated the jury could consider the charges collectively, failed to direct them properly, and didn't provide them with a written question trail.
The man argued the judge "cut directly across, and undermined, the orthodox direction that each charge must be considered separately".
The appeal was dismissed however, after the Court of Appeal found the sentencing notes provided more context to the judge's direction to the jury, including his direction that "you have to deliberate the evidence in respect to each charge as a separate standalone entity...you do not go to count one and find, okay, we have got that sorted so we'll just broad brush the rest of them".
"As in most things, context is all," the Court of Appeal judgment says.
The lack of written question trail- a document drafted by a judge with the help of lawyers to help guide the jury to reach a verdict- was also disregarded by the Court of Appeal.
The man's lawyer had argued the judge's alleged confusing directions made it important the jury have written guidance to determine its verdict, but the Court of Appeal said the judge's directions were "clear and unambiguious".