Court throws out assault case against former media owner

Venkat Raman

The Auckland District Court dismissed a criminal case filed against the former shareholder and director of a media company in December 2017.

In dismissing the charges, the Judge found that the evidence and statements given by two women were inconsistent.

Assault Charges

The defendant faced two charges of assaulting the complainant in April 2015 in Auckland. To support these charges, another woman alleged evidence of a similar incident that same month.

However, it was discovered in the Court that the defendant was not even in New Zealand on the day she had alleged.

Despite interim name suppression the defendant, who was 70 years of age at the time of the alleged incidents, became the subject of gossip including by a highly placed government official who before the trial informed a certain Ministry saying that “[the defendant] … has a conviction.” In fact, before the Police had even laid charges, a prominent journalist had published an article against the defendant on a leading news website.

Aggrieved complainants

The complainant and the key witness met at the company where they worked together for over a year and became good personal friends.

Both women admitted to the Judge that during this time they each became “angry” with the defendant over issues relating to work performance. Each claimed that they felt under-appreciated and felt they were not recognised for their hard work.

The Court did not find any evidence supporting these claims.

False allegations

In Court, the key witness told the Court that the defendant similarly indecently assaulted her only two days after the assault on the complainant. On oath, the witness repeatedly insisted to the Judge that she was sure that the incident took place on that day because she double-checked with text messages she claimed to have sent while in the defendant’s company.

She also remembered being concerned about picking her daughter up from primary school later that afternoon.

The Judge remarked, “She explained the efforts she had gone through to establish (the accuracy of) the date.”

Evidence disposed off

The Court was then shown independent evidence that the defendant was not even in the country on that day. The Court also found that no school occurred on or around that date. When asked for a copy of those text messages, she then claimed she disposed the phone despite knowing it was a significant piece of evidence.

The judge dismissed her allegation, finding her to lack credibility and reliability.

The Judge found overwhelming evidence that the two women colluded to create the complaints.

They had agreed to “making complaints in the future” and admitted that they “spoke regularly” about this. In her testimony, the key witness admitted that she would support the other women whenever a complaint was made.

“That must be true,” the Judge said, adding, “because their complaints were lodged at the same time”, and “there were similarities in the format of the original complaint(s).”

On the similarity of the dates of the two alleged incidents he stated that “the coincidence seems surprising to me.”

He concluded that the two women had worked together to create the false Police complaints.

Solicitor’s Evidence

A qualified and successful solicitor, who gave evidence on behalf of the defendant, said that she never heard anything adverse about him in terms of behaviour towards women.

She stated that though she was in a vulnerable position at the time she met the defendant he had only to helped her to get to where she is today.

She said that after becoming aware of the allegations, she had encouraged the defendant to be strong and volunteered to give evidence for him.

Crown’s failure

Ultimately the Judge dismissed the charges, saying, “Faced with the complainants’ evidence which presents a number of difficulties including the motive to lie, collusion and limited independent corroboration … I find the Crown has failed to prove (the charges).”

“You are free to go.”

Additional Reading: Our Leader, “Jurisprudence must hammer down perjury”

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