WARNING: This article contains descriptions of sexual abuse against children. Please take care.

A senior Ratana Church Minister is on trial in Auckland for alleged sex abuse against three boys over a 20-year period.

And it has been revealed that he has two previous convictions and has served jail time for child sex offending - including a young boy at the church where his father was a minister.

Daniel Brass Raharaha Nehemia - also known as Brass Boyboy Nehemia and Brass Boyboy Raharaha - is facing nine charges of sexually assaulting three boys between 1977 and 1999.

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Nehemia has pleaded not guilty to three charges of indecencies between males, four of indecencies with a boy under the age of 12 and two of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection.

The complainants - who are now all adults - all have statutory and permanent name suppression and cannot be identified.

The alleged offending happened long before he was ordained.

It is unclear whether the Ratana Church knew of his previous convictions when he was elevated to ministerial status.

Nehemia's trial in the Auckland District Court began this morning before Judge Russell Collins and a jury.

The Crown will call nine witnesses including the three complainant who will give further details of the alleged offending, members of their families, and police who have worked on the investigation into Nehemia.

The trial is scheduled to run for five days.

Daniel Brass Raharaha Nehemia is on trial for child sex offending. Photograph/Facebook
Daniel Brass Raharaha Nehemia is on trial for child sex offending. Photograph/Facebook

Three boys claim sex abuse by Nehemia

In her opening, Crown prosecutor Jo Murdoch told the jury Nehemia sexually assaulted three boys "who he had access to".

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She said the first complainant was 11 and Nehemia 15 when the alleged abuse occurred in the late 70s.

"He alleges that on at least one incident while asleep in his bed, [Nehemia] came into his bedroom and into his bed, lay behind him and attempted to put his penis into his anus," she said.

"The complainant would avoid this by moving around in bed."

The second complainant was 7 or 8 when he was allegedly abused in the late 70s.

"The defendant came into his bedroom and got into his bed and started to cuddle him from behind … the allegation is that the defendant sexually assaulted him - he put the complainants penis into his mouth while in his bed.

"During that same incident, [Nehemia] took hold of the complainant's head and forced the complainant to suck his penis."

Murdoch said the third complainant alleged Nehemia abused him when he was about 9 years old in the late 90s.

She said there were two separate incidents relating to the third complainant.

The first happened at the boy's family home.

He went to a room where Nehemia was to play on the computer.

Nehemia allegedly started to rub the boy's genitals and told him "just to go with it".

"The defendant then got into bed and told the complainant to get into bed with him, which the complainant did.

"The defendant then lay naked behind the complainant and started to touch the complainant's penis.

"He did that with one hand and with his other hand was rubbing his own penis … the complainant started crying."

Murdoch said during the alleged incident Nehemia forced the boy to perform oral sex while he was crying.

He then "rolled" the boy over onto his stomach, pulled his underwear down and forcibly penetrated him.

"The complainant was told not to tell anyone what had happened," said Murdoch.

A day or so later Nehemia allegedly touched the boy's penis again and asked him "to do the same to him".

The boy did not want to but "he felt he had to" because Nehemia grabbed his hand and forced it onto his penis.

Daniel Brass Raharaha Nehemia was a senior Ratana Church minister when he was charged with child sex offending. He is currently on trial in the Auckland District Court. Photograph/Facebook
Daniel Brass Raharaha Nehemia was a senior Ratana Church minister when he was charged with child sex offending. He is currently on trial in the Auckland District Court. Photograph/Facebook

Recidivist offender - jury hears details of previous sex crimes

In her opening, Murdoch told the jury that Nehemia had two previous convictions for sexually abusing children.

The first was in 1979 when Nehemia was "17, almost 18".

Murdoch revealed Nehemia pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting an 11-year-old boy during Sunday school.

Nehemia's father was a minister in the Māori Evangelical Fellowship church and the boy was playing in the grounds of the minister's house.

He called the child into the house and took him to his bedroom,

He sat the victim on his knee and started "pumping himself" against the boy.

The abuse only stopped when the young victim "managed to escape and ran out of the house".

In March 1980 Nehemia was convicted.

Then in January 1990, he struck again.

This time he was 27 and his victim was a 12-year-old boy.

Nehemia was camping and sharing a tent with the boy and his brother who he knew through his church.

He admitted to indecently assaulting the victim by touching his penis and performing oral sex on him.

He was convicted and sentenced to one year and three months in prison.

Nehemia denies offending

Murdoch said the allegations came to light "many years after the fact".

She explained that a relative of one complainant - who was aware of his abuse claim years ago - heard details of Nehemia's alleged offending against another boy.

The first two complainants went to police in April and May 2018.

When spoken to by police, Nehemia denied the offending and said after serving time in prison he "would never make that mistake again".

He claimed "some sort of collusion or fabrication" and accused the two complainants of "getting their heads together and making this up".

The third complainant came forward in August 2018 - after the Herald reported the first raft of charges.

Defence lawyer Peter Tomlinson said his client had pleaded not guilty and "says these incidents did not happen".

He acknowledged Nehemia's previous offending but urged the jury not to be prejudiced or biased at an early stage.

He said they should put that information and their early feelings aside "to do your job properly".

"To do otherwise would be totally unfair to the defendant," he said.

"It's totally unfair to our system of justice … it's important that you don't make any conclusions at this time, that you sit back and listen to the evidence.

"It's important that you start off with a blank piece of paper … not a piece of paper already stamped with what the Crown has said."

Tomlinson said it was also important to consider the alleged offending happened 40 years ago when the complainants and Nehemia were young.

He said memories that old could be "distorted" and "embellished".

"It's very important you keep an open mind," he said.

The first complainant is currently giving evidence against Nehemia.

Church unaware of charges before Herald article

At the time of his arrest Nehemia was a senior Ratana Church Minister.

He was ordained in November 2015.

The church was founded at Ratana Pa near Whanganui in 1920 by Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana —​ a Methodist farmer who was regarded as a visionary and faith healer.

The church was not aware of the charges Nehemia was facing until they were reported by the Herald.

Less than two hours after church leaders read about the alleged offending they stood Nehemia down from his position and forbade him from "participating in anything to do with the church".

"The church executive is shocked to learn of the charges against a person who holds a senior position within the church," they said in a statement.

"The church executive considers this type of behaviour abhorrent and will not tolerate it from any office holder of the church."

Nehemia had attended a meeting with church leaders days before his alleged offending was revealed and did not mention the charges or upcoming trial.

At the time church secretary Piriwiritua Rurawhe said Nehemia was refusing to communicate with him.

The trial continues.

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 support@safetotalk.nz

• 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.