Man denies grooming in last-minute plea change

Evan Smith (63) initially pleaded guilty to grooming but recently denied the offending. Photo:...
Evan Smith (63) initially pleaded guilty to grooming but recently denied the offending. Photo: Rob Kidd
A Mosgiel man who pleaded guilty to sexually grooming a 14-year-old girl online has denied the charge at the eleventh hour.

Evan Hedley Smith (63) appeared for a scheduled sentencing this afternoon but the Dunedin District Court heard that in a probation interview the defendant had said he did not believe the person he was communicating with online was underage.

The person the defendant was actually messaging was an undercover police officer.

Judge Michael Crosbie said Smith's stance contradicted his earlier guilty plea and inherent acceptance of the facts.

Consequently, he said, it would be "quite wrong" to proceed to sentencing.

He vacated the defendant's guilty plea and the conviction.

Smith will appear in court again at the end of November.