Guilty verdict for sex abuse of young girls

A Clinton man has been found guilty of 37 of the 38 sex charges he faced, and now faces years behind bars.

A jury of six men and six women took nearly seven hours to return the unanimous verdicts against 63-year-old Richard Joseph Wekking in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.

He abused three young girls in the 1980s and ’90s and the court heard a week of evidence as the women told their stories.

Judge Michael Crosbie paid tribute to the women, who went from being referred to as "complainants" during the trial to being "victims" in the court’s eyes.

"I often like to say you’re survivors," he said.

"It has been a long journey to get here."

Wekking stood unmoved in the dock as the guilty verdicts rolled in and made no comment or gesture as he was led downstairs to the cells.

The first victim told the court the defendant referred to her as his "special girl" and invented several games to disguise his lewd intent.

Wekking would tell the girls he was checking they were clean as he committed the numerous indecencies over the years.

The most serious charges of rape featured one of the victims who recounted her ordeals during an interview with police.

Wekking, she said, also repeatedly violated her with household items.

"He kept telling me I was pretty," she said.

When she reacted with disgust to some of the incidents, Wekking told her: "That’s what big people do."

Two of the victims told the court how the defendant regularly exposed them to pornography to the point where it was normalised.

While the sexual allegations against Wekking were briefly aired in the 1980s, it was only recently that the women finally found the impetus to come forward.

Crown prosecutor Mary-Jane Thomas in her closing address urged the jurors not to hold that against the victims.

"Look at it through the lens of children," she said.

"Wouldn’t it be great if every time a child is touched they went to a parent."

Counsel John Westgate pointed jurors to evidence that the court had heard from experts on the topic of memory.

"Simply thinking, wondering, imagining or speculating about a past experience can lead us to unwittingly fill in the gaps in our memories with details that will make sense to us but that were not part of any original experience," the expert statement said.

Mr Westgate suggested to the victims and the jury that that was what had happened in this case.

He said at least two of the victims had discussed their childhoods extensively and as a result their memories had become "contaminated".

The jury did not accept that.

Wekking will be sentenced in April.

Judge Crosbie ordered a psychological report be prepared before that hearing.

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