ON AIR: Mike Hosking Breakfast

6AM - 9AM

Sex abuse trial against prominent businessman aborted

Author
Sam Hurley, NZ Herald,
Section
Crime,
Publish Date
Monday, 18 March 2019, 2:27PM

The trial of a prominent New Zealander, his business manager, and a well-known entertainer has been aborted.

After nearly two weeks of evidence was heard in the Auckland District Court, Judge Russell Collins today decided to stop the trial.

"I will be discharging you from giving verdicts in this trial," he told the jury.

"There will need to be another trial at another day."

Judge Collins said there were "a number of reasons" for aborting the trial but he couldn't elaborate on what those were for the jury.

"The events in Christchurch are just one factor, but there are compelling reasons in any event," he said.

"I would very much like to tell you why the trial is coming to an end, but it just simply is not appropriate that I do that ... There will need to be a retrial and it is just simply not appropriate to explain why this trial has been brought to an end."

Judge Collins said it would be natural for the jury to feel "significant frustration" after giving up two weeks of their lives with a notion it has "all been for nothing".

"Judges are always extremely reluctant to bring a trial to an end," he said.

"[The decision] hasn't been taken lightly and has been taken very reluctantly."

The judge also reminded the jury that it would be a criminal offence to publicly identify any of the defendants, complainants or suppressed witnesses.

A retrial was ordered by Judge Collins and all three defendants were bailed until an administrative hearing next month.

The prominent businessman is facing two charges of indecent assault - after being accused of two incidents in February 2008 and October 2016 - and two counts of perverting the course of justice by attempting to dissuade the second complainant from giving evidence at his trial.

The entertainer, meanwhile, faces three charges of attempting to dissuade the same man, while the manager is charged with attempting to dissuade the witness on one occasion.

In April 2017, the entertainer first allegedly attempted to dissuade the second complainant.

A secret recording, made by the alleged victim, of the entertainer's alleged attempt to pervert the course of justice was played to the court during the trial.

He can be heard encouraging the young man to talk to a lawyer who could provide a "contract".

"You'd be surprised what money can do to buy people who you might know, you know what I mean? I know they can get nasty, that's what I don't want to see, the most important thing is you," the entertainer said.

"He has enough money to buy people to survive ... give [the lawyer] a ring this afternoon, I'll ring her first to say you might be ringing."

All three defendants are also accused of attempting to dissuade the same complainant during what has been termed by the Crown as the "Gold Coast plot" in May 2017.

It involved hiring a public relations expert and spending tens of thousands of dollars to "silence [the complainant]", Crown prosecutor Simon Foote said.

The second complainant was instructed to meet the group at the Palazzo Versace hotel, the court heard.

He spent an afternoon shopping and was wined and dined before being asked to drop his claims against the prominent New Zealander, the Crown alleges.

Another covert recording - also played to the jury - revealed some of the conversations.

"... what someone's life is worth ... someone's life is probably worth about $700,000", the second complainant said.

The PR expert replied: "And that's what you want? $700,000? Because a life's worth $700,000.

"And so if he, the person in question ... put that in your account, you'd retract the statement?"

The young man replied: "Immediately."

The PR expert and one of his associates were due to give evidence for the Crown. They have been given immunity from prosecution.

Their names are suppressed following an appeal of Judge Collins' decision not to keep their names hidden.

A well-known political figure - whose name is suppressed - was also expected to give evidence for the Crown.

The entertainer is further accused of attempting the dissuade the man in September 2017.

At the start of the trial, all three defendants had their lengthy name suppressions revoked after a successful legal challenge by the Herald and Stuff.

However, the two men have kept their identities hidden after immediately indicating an appeal of the decision.

The prominent New Zealander - who has enjoyed name suppression for some two years since he was first charged - will challenge the decision in the High Court, his lawyer David Jones QC said.

As a result of the appeal, a 20-working day suppression order was automatically invoked until a hearing can be held.

 

ON AIR: Mike Hosking Breakfast

6AM - 9AM