The identity of a man acquitted on eight indecency-related charges is to remain suppressed.
A judge threatened to clear the courtroom yesterday when friends and family of the man reacted to his acquittal with loud cheers and clapping from the public gallery.
The man, aged in his 50s, had been on trial in the Dunedin District Court since late last month on five charges of indecently assaulting three young girls and three of attempting to make intimate visual recordings of two of them.
Offences against two of the girls were alleged to have been committed during 2010 or 2011 while offending against the third girl allegedly took place in November 2013.
None of the complainants had disclosed the offending until several years later — the first two complainants in 2014 and the third in 2016.
The jurors hearing the case spent five and a-half hours deliberating after the judge summed up yesterday morning. Their verdicts of "not guilty" on all eight charges were announced just after 4.45pm.
The first "not guilty" was met with gasps of relief and a smattering of applause from the public gallery. But by the time the foreman announced the last "not guilty" verdict, the cheering and applause from the back of the courtroom had become so loud Judge Kevin Phillips called for silence, saying he was "extremely disturbed by such a reaction".
"If it continues, I will clear the court," he said.
He discharged the man, who was greeted with hugs and handshakes from his supporters.
Judge Phillips thanked the jurors and excused them from jury service for three years.
He then asked to see Crown and defence counsel Robin Bates and Jonathan Eaton QC, and confirmed that, given the verdict, the man's name was to remain permanently suppressed, along with any other identifying details. A wide-ranging order, in place throughout the trial, prohibited reporting of the man's identity or any details which could lead to him, his family or his place of work being identified.
Where the trial was being held was also suppressed for most of the hearing. Specific details of the charges, the names of witnesses and any evidence which might breach suppression conditions could also not be published.