Damages unlikely for falsely accused man

A lawyer says a Dunedin man who was the subject of false sexual allegations will not be compensated for the time he spent behind bars.

Christopher John Ferguson (31) faced eight charges — two of rape — from two complainants but his trial before the Dunedin District Court fell apart this week when one of the girls said she had fabricated her story.

She was the subject of seven of the charges and the Crown said Mr Ferguson would not have been charged in relation to the other girl had it not been for the second complainant.

The defendant was originally charged in May and remanded in custody.

He was finally released on Wednesday morning when Judge Michael Crosbie dismissed all charges.

Police approached the Otago Daily Times yesterday to confirm Mr Ferguson had actually been sentenced on unrelated charges in July.

The jail term he received, on convictions for breaching a protection order and threatening to do grievous bodily harm, meant he spent a total of seven months in jail because of the false sex allegations.

Auckland defence lawyer Graeme Newell said  it would be highly unlikely Mr Ferguson would be compensated for his time spent wrongfully locked up.

"That’s lost time for him," he said.

"He could apply for costs, I suppose, if he paid for his own defence but that only applies to people who spend money on a lawyer."

Mr Newell said there were potential charges of perjury or making a false statement available to police to deal with people who lied on oath.

However, he noted that the 13-year-old who broke down in court on Tuesday was very young.

In a statement, police continued to refer to the girls as "victims" despite the charges being dismissed.

"We acknowledge the decision of the court and are continuing to support both victims.

"As is standard practice, police will appropriately consider the outcome and whether there are any lessons that can be applied to assist us in future cases," it said.

"Police presented the best possible case to the court based on the evidence and information available at the time, including testimony from two victims at trial, who were independent of each other."

Mr Newell said the way child witnesses were interviewed could make it harder for them to change their story.

"Once a complainant makes a statement on video, there’s a tendency not to interfere with that process, to keep the integrity of the video process and present that to a jury without further questioning of a witness," he said.

— Additional reporting The New Zealand Herald

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

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