Charge dismissed in rape jury trial

A former elite athlete accused of rape has had the charge withdrawn after an "extraordinary" step taken by the court.

The man — aged in his 20s, who has previously represented the country at his chosen sport — spent two days on trial before the Dunedin District Court in a hearing that was scheduled to last a week.

Yesterday, after the court had heard extensive evidence from the complainant (the man’s ex-partner), counsel Anne Stevens QC made an application to have the charge dismissed.

That was not opposed by Crown prosecutor Robin Bates and was accordingly granted by Judge Michael Crosbie.

"If the court is of the view that a properly directed jury could not convict a defendant, the court may dismiss the charge," he told the jury.

"It’s an extraordinary remedy to take the case away from a jury when the trial’s started."

The judge also granted the defendant permanent name suppression, which had been in place throughout proceedings to protect his employment.

"To have his name published, certainly in the face of the evidence we heard, which was interesting to say the least in terms of background, and the manner in which the complainant changed her position ... would not be in the interests of justice," Judge Crosbie said.

The woman, who met the defendant through their shared sporting endeavours, told the court she had broken up with him several times and finally so on October 1, 2018.

Ten days later, he went to her Dunedin flat where they kissed.

The woman said the defendant pulled off her pyjama pants and raped her, holding her by her ponytail as he did so and then gripping her hips so hard he left finger-shaped bruises.

She allegedly told him to stop at least 10 times.

As far as she could recall, the complainant told Mr Bates, that was the last time they had had sex.

However, when cross-examined by Mrs Stevens the woman said there was a possibility they had slept together on further occasions between October and when she spoke to police in March.

Text messages were also produced by the defence which cast a different light on the relationship.

While the complainant claimed the man had been controlling over what she wore and with whom she formed friendships, the cellphone data told another story.

The conversations revealed a pattern of the woman asking for support and the defendant doing his best to provide it, only to be abused.

Mrs Stevens called it "vicious".

The complainant agreed she had been manipulative and was "treating him like rubbish".

There were also conflicting accounts of the alleged rape.

A nurse who was the first to hear the disclosure of the alleged incident recorded that the man had "stalked" his ex-girlfriend and forced his way into her home to commit the act.

The complainant admitted that was untrue.

She told police that the defendant had been messaging her repeatedly while she had been ignoring him — but phone records proved it was the opposite.

"It’s really hard to get your facts right when you’re making them up," Mrs Stevens suggested.

"I wish I was," the complainant said.

Judge Crosbie thanked jurors for their service and allowed the defendant out of the dock to be reunited with family.

 

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