Rape conviction upheld

The Supreme Court of New Zealand has dismissed the second appeal of Robert Matti Neho, the man found guilty of raping a woman at Southland Hospital.

Neho was found guilty of a charge of sexual violation by rape during a jury trial at the Invercargill District Court in January 2019.

The rape took place when the victim was at Southland Hospital in the hospital shower area, when she was recovering from keyhole surgery in 2017.

The jury at the time acquitted Neho on six other charges.

He was sentenced in March last year to eight years and one month in prison.

During the first appeal hearing on October 14, before Justices Christine French, Graham Lang and Cameron Mander, defence counsel Robert Lithgow QC said the six acquittals meant the jury "had clearly found the complainant was not credible".

The guilty verdict was "illogical, perverse and unreasonable".

"It smacked of the jury wanting to get [Mr Neho] for something because they didn’t like him," Mr Lithgow said.

However, the Justices’ decision says it was possible the jury considered what the complainant was saying in relation to the other charges, was likely to be true or even highly likely to be true, but they could not be sure.

"Further, the jury was not obliged to either accept or reject everything the complainant said. They were entitled to accept some aspects and reject others," the decision says.

His appeal was dismissed.

The purpose of the Supreme Court appeal was because Neho wished to argue the Court of Appeal had paid "lip service" to the principles applicable to an appeal based on inconsistent verdicts.

He believed the Court of Appeal did not factor in the proposition the jury did not believe the complainant in relation to the other six charges in a case where her credibility was central, the judgement says.

Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann, Justice Mark O’Regan and Justice Ellen France believed the Court of Appeal considered the evidence given at trial and provided an explanation for the pattern of verdicts, the judgement says.

"None of the matters raised about that factual assessment give rise to an appearance of a miscarriage of justice. The criteria for leave to appeal are not met.

"The application for leave to appeal is accordingly dismissed."

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