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Dressing-down for police

Police found themselves in the firing line after the third adjournment of a sexual assault trial.
Judge Barbara Morris delivered a blistering dressing-down in Masterton District Court last week after a one-day trial was adjourned yet again.
“This is the third false start for this trial, adjourned for the second time for police,” she said.
The police prosecutors requested a postponement for the judge-alone trial due to witness unavailability.
“The police were advised of this two months ago, but did nothing until this morning.
“The defence opposes the adjournment,” Morris said.
She said legislation regarding whether to grant the adjournment or dismiss the case was plain enough but said she must weigh up the interests of the community, the rights of the complainant, and the rights of the defendant, who was entitled to swift court proceedings.
“This [case] dates back to April 17, 2021. There have been some 19 months until today.”
She said a new trial date was unlikely before next year, making it two years since the process began, adding that the way the case had travelled through the courts was an indictment on the judicial system.
The first trial date in March this year was delayed due to police unavailability; a second trial set down for July had to be adjourned due to health reasons.
“And then there is this date today,” Morris said.
“That delay and the reason push very strongly in favour of refusing this adjournment.
She said given the history of delays, police should have paid “extra attention” to ensure the case was ready to proceed. “But for the nature of the allegation, I would have dismissed the trial and charges.
“Notwithstanding the unfortunate position we are in, and should not be in.
“It is not the complainant’s fault that there was not a reallocation of this trial two months ago, as there should have been.
“It is not the community’s fault.”
In her summary of the alleged offences, Morris said the defendant had been at the complainant’s address when he was asked to leave.
“He made sexual advances toward her and tried to put his hands down her trousers.
“Police said he indecently assaulted her, and placed his hands under her top, touching her breasts.”
She said the woman tried to push the man outside and he allegedly punched her three times to the side of the head and smashed a window.
“He was seen by neighbours who had heard the complainant scream for help.”
Morris said the man admitted touching the complainant’s breasts but claimed it was consensual.
“He has denied the other charges, and was intoxicated at the time.”
She said the man had previous convictions for violence against women and imprisonment was a possible outcome of the indecent assault charge he was facing.
“It is extremely unfortunate, and I say nothing about costs. This should not have happened. This one-day trial should have gone ahead.
“However, the seriousness of the offence does tip the balance.”
Morris granted the application for adjournment but signed off with a warning.
“I’ll note that it is to be given priority this time, the case will be dismissed if this happens again. Despite the seriousness of it.”
The man is facing a raft of charges in addition to indecent assault, including, common assault, wilful damage, procuring cannabis, and driving while disqualified.
The one-day trial was rescheduled for February next year.

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