Prominent man avoids indecency conviction

A prominent man has escaped conviction and identification on an indecency charge, almost two and a-half years after the offence was committed.

The man, now in his late 60s, appeared before Judge David Saunders, of Christchurch, in the Dunedin District Court yesterday and accepted a sentence indication of discharge without conviction, on payment of $6500 reparation to the female complainant.

Judge Saunders also indicated final name suppression. He said it was accepted the man had ''carried a bit of a cross'' in the time since the matter first came before the court. 

The case, ''which was going to be diverted'', had taken on a life of its own and had greatly affected the man and his family, Judge Saunders said.

Counsel Jonathan Eaton QC, of Christchurch, described the matter as going through ''quite an extraordinary process'' since starting in Central Otago with diversion.

Almost three years later, after a Court of Appeal hearing, the case was being resolved in ''almost a similar way'', Mr Eaton said.

The man was pleased to put the stress of the prosecution behind him. Crown counsel Robin Bates said the Crown did not consent to either application (for a discharge without conviction and final name suppression), but neither did it oppose the applications.

It was a matter for the court, applying the correct principles, he said.

Of relevance was the offence happened in the woman's home, there was some abuse of trust, premeditation and harm caused to the complainant.

In deciding to grant a discharge, Judge Saunders said he wanted to be clear it was not a case of ''chequebook justice'', or of the man getting any special recognition because of who he was.

Rather, it was a logical recognition of the facts.

The judge said he had tried to convey that, although the complainant had been affected, when looking at the matter objectively and taking into account the range of behaviours which came before the courts, the offending was at the lower end of the scale of seriousness.

Taking all factors into account, his view was a conviction would be disproportionate to the overall events in the particular circumstances of the man, his family and his work situation.

And he said such a finding could apply ''even if it had been the mythical Joe Bloggs in the dock''.

On the question of name suppression, Judge Saunders said he accepted fully the concept of open justice applied.

The case had been dealt with in open court and he had decided publication of the man's name and the circumstances of the matter would bring ''undue consequences'' to the man himself and to others.

He ordered final suppression of the man's name, occupation and former occupations, anything likely to lead to his identity, or cast speculation on any other person of a similar class or type.