A Christchurch man who was jailed for tying, blindfolding, and raping a 13-year-old girl has had his convictions quashed.
In 2015 Ian Edward Hitchcock was found guilty of rape and unlawful sexual connection, among other charges, and sentenced to nine years and six months in prison.
The court heard the then-26-year-old supplied the girl with cannabis and alcohol, making her intoxicated before tying her arms and legs, gagging and blindfolding her and then raping her.
He denied the charges but was found guilty.
He was also found guilty of unlawful sexual connection in relation to another girl who was 14 years old at the time.
The court heard that the offending took place at Hitchcock's home several times between September 10, 2011 and September 1, 2012.
He was sentenced to five years' jail for the offending against the 13-year-old and four and a half years for the unlawful sexual connection with the 14-year-old - and for perverting the course of justice and supplying cannabis.
However, on Friday the Court of Appeal quashed Hitchcock's conviction of rape and sexual violation against the 13-year-old after text messages between them emerged.
Hitchcock appealed against his conviction relating to the attack on the 13-year-old.
A Court of Appeal judgment released to the Herald today revealed Hitchcock's appeal was based on new evidence of text messages between him and the 13-year-old.
Two cellphones were seized as part of the police investigation during a search warrant at Hitchcock's property in June 2013.
The Court of Appeal ruled the text messages found on the phones showed the 13-year-old and Hitchcock had a "warm and friendly relationship".
It said the messages would have laid a "very firm foundation for the defence" that the girl had either consented to the sexual activity or that Hitchcock had reasonable belief she had consented.
None of the text messages had been shown to Hitchcock or his lawyers before the trial.
The Crown accepted that a number of the text messages were "highly relevant" to the allegations of non-consensual sexual activities with her, and suggested the Court of Appeal substitute the convictions with convictions of unlawful sexual connection with a young person.
But the Court of Appeal declined this, saying the undisclosed text messages may have so damaged the 13-year-old's credibility in the mind of the jurors that they would not have convicted Hitchcock in relation to any of her allegations.
The convictions of raping the 13-year-old and unlawful sexual connection with her were quashed.
A retrial was not ordered.
SEXUAL HARM - DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact the Safe to Talk confidential crisis helpline on:
- Text 4334 and they will respond
- Email [email protected]
- Visit https://safetotalk.nz/contact-us/ for an online chat
Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list.
If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.