Man not guilty of molesting stepdaughters

A jury has found a man not guilty on two charges of molesting his stepdaughters.

The trial in the Dunedin District Court this week began with 17 charges related to the alleged abuse that spanned many years, but by the time the jury retired to reach its verdicts on Thursday there were only four remaining, after Judge David Robinson dismissed the remainder.

The defendant, who has name suppression, was acquitted on charges of injuring with intent to injure and sexual contact with a child, but jurors could not reach a verdict on a further two counts of indecently touching his stepdaughters.

The jury watched the police interviews that were carried out while the complainants were still teenagers.

Counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner suggested the women’s mother had instructed them to concoct the allegations to ensure she would have fulltime care of her children.

She said the mother had tangled her family in a "web of lies" and had recruited people to "lobby for her".

The Crown said the mother was simply being protective and was relentless in her pursuit for justice.

As Judge David Robinson summed up the case, he reminded the jury not to judge anyone’s demeanour or "displays of heightened emotions" after an outburst in court this week.

The mother gave evidence on Wednesday and became upset during cross-examination.

"When it doesn’t go well, when she doesn’t get her own way ... what you saw was her throw her toys," Ms Saunderson-Warner said.

She said there was simply not enough evidence to convict the man and the jury agreed.

The jury remained unable to reach a conclusion on two charges.

The defence case drew attention to the "evolving nature" of the women’s partial disclosures, calling their evidence inconsistent.

The Crown said the women were credible and the incremental nature of their disclosures did not bear any weight.

The man was granted bail and will next appear in court on February 13 to give the prosecution a chance to decide whether another trial will be sought.