Jury clears man of sexual abuse charges

A Dunedin cleaner accused of sexually abusing a child for nearly three years has been cleared by a jury.

Aniket Sumeet Kumar (23) was on trial before the Dunedin District Court for nearly a week before the 12 not-guilty verdicts came in on Monday evening following six hours' deliberation.

Kumar faced a range of allegations including counts of indecent assault and sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection.

Three charges were dismissed by the judge at the end of the Crown case, due to a lack of evidence.

The jury acquitted Kumar unanimously on two of the remaining charges and by majority verdict on the other 10.

As the foreperson repeated ''not guilty'', the defendant stood with his eyes closed, opening them only when the final verdict was read.

Kumar wiped away tears while supporters in the public gallery began hushed celebrations.

The police investigation began in August 2016 after a girl told a teacher aide there had been ''inappropriate'' behaviour by the man.

When she was spoken to by a specialist police interviewer, the complainant made wide-ranging claims of an assortment of sex acts taking place in almost every room of her home.

The alleged abuse took place with her parents just a couple of rooms away and occasionally when the girl's sister was present, she said.

Kumar supposedly hastily clothed himself and the complainant when he heard an adult coming in.

Defence counsel Anne Stevens blasted the girl's account, saying it was a combination of ''an overactive imagination, fantasy and lies''.

But Crown prosecutor Craig Power said there was no reason the jury could not accept her version of events.

In his summing up, Judge Michael Crosbie told the jury no physical evidence was found by police and so their decision would be based almost solely on the credibility of the girl.

The jury found it lacking.

Mrs Stevens said the child's video interview with police, which was played as evidence in court, displayed a happy, cheerful child, untroubled by trauma - ''not someone sexually abused in the most horrible way for three years by a grown man''.

Police combed two properties where sex attacks allegedly took place but found no forensic evidence to pin anything on Kumar.

That, Mrs Stevens said, was telling.

The Crown claimed the specificity in the complainant's description of her experience lent weight to her words.

However, Mrs Stevens suggested much of her account was implausible.

The girl described being sodomised as ''ticklish''.

Judge Crosbie told the jury not all victims of abuse made disclosures immediately, largely because of ''shame, fear, shock and confusion''.

Mrs Stevens pointed to the evidence of the complainant's teacher which painted her as anything but subdued and timid.

Had the violations actually happened, the girl would have raised it much earlier, she said.

After the verdicts, the judge thanked the jury for their service and Kumar was released from the dock.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

 

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