Content warning: This story contains details of and surrounding rape and sexual assault. 

According to the Crown prosecutors, it was all about the defendant getting what he wanted. 

And he didn’t care if the young women he allegedly raped or sexually assaulted were asleep or affected by drugs - that’s what the prosecution in the trial of a 25-year-old Wellington man accused of eight sexual offences against six complainants told a jury today. 

But it’s not so clear cut, according to the defence, who say that four of the six young women consented to the sexual activity that occurred and that the defendant believed on “reasonable grounds” that these young women had consented to having sex with him. He also claims he didn’t sexually assault two complainants.

Those were the final arguments made by the prosecution and defence as they summed up their cases. 

What the Wellington man has been accused of

The defendant, who has interim name suppression which means he cannot be named, faces four charges of sexual violation by rape, two charges of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, and two charges of indecent assault, against a total of six complainants, which allegedly took place in Wellington between 2017 and 2020.

The Crown argues the offending took place against young women who were either asleep or affected by alcohol, and the defendant initiated and continued sexual activity when the women were not in a position to consent. 

The defence argued that for the four rape charges, the defendant accepted that sexual activity occurred but it was his belief and understanding at the time that all of them were consenting to sexual activity. 

And for the two indecent assault charges and two unlawful sexual connection charges, the defendant denied anything happened at all. And if sexual assaults did occur, he says it wasn’t him who committed them. 

This is what the prosecution said in its closing statement

Crown prosecutor Rushika De Silva said over the past eight days the jury had been given an insight into the lives of a group of young people, heard about nights out in town, parties, kick-ons, alcohol and MDMA. 

“The events of this trial focus on what happened after.”

“It was about young women who had each gone to sleep or tried to sleep after a night out and a young man who sexually offended without their consent,” she said. 

In response to the defendant’s claim that the rape charges were in fact consensual and mutual decisions to have sex, the prosecution said this was not the women’s experiences of the events. 

This meant, De Silva said, the defence was suggesting that each of the six complainants had “fabricated” their accounts. 

“Their accounts are so different that it is not possible the complainants have simply misinterpreted events or recalled them incorrectly and in the Crown’s submission, it is this stark contrast between the complainant and defendant’s version of events that is really important in this case,” she said. 

Speaking to the jury, she said it was their job to decide if the Crown had met the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Ministry of Justice defines the burden of proof as the responsibility of proving a disputed charge or allegation. In criminal cases (like this one), “the prosecution has this responsibility and the standard of proof that applies is beyond a reasonable doubt”.

De Silva explained the four charges of sexual violation by rape came down to a question of consent. 

“Our law recognises that a person has an absolute right to say how and when they will consent to sexual activity. Consent means true consent given by someone who’s in a position to make a rational and informed decision about whether they want something to occur or not,” she said. 

“Consent must be determined at the time of the sexual activity, not at the time of the events leading up the activity.”

A person could not consent if they were unconscious, asleep or if they were “so affected” by alcohol, and a lack of protesting did not mean consent is given, De Silva said. 

De Silva then detailed each of the six complainant’s allegations and told the jury to think about the similarities of the complainants' accounts when thinking about whether they were reliable and credible.  

De Silva said the defendant’s evidence was inconsistent with other witnesses and this was a result of him “moulding a story to make him look better”. 

There was no plausible reason for each complainant to lie and no “believable evidence why complainants are mistaken or lying,” she said. 

“On this evidence, it paints a clear picture that the defendant used the opportunity he had once in bed with complainants to either rape or sexually assault them … he didn’t care if the complainants were asleep or affected by drugs … it was all about him getting what he wanted.” 

Here’s what the defence said in its closing statement

Defence counsel Val Nisbet said there was a “real conflict” between what the complainants had said and what the defendant had said in court.

“None of us in court know the truth” and it was up to the jury, Nisbet said, to “locate the truth”. 

“Can you consent if you’re drunk? Can you consent if you’ve had MDMA? The answer is yes you can,” he said.   

“It might be something you regret down the track. But nonetheless consent is consent and it will be the defence’s argument in this case, the complainants consented to the sexual activity that took place - that’s the strong part of the argument. 

“And if some of you cannot accept that, then the other argument is that the defendant believed on reasonable grounds that these young people - these young women - consented to sexual activity with him.” 

Most of the complaints, Nisbet said, were made to police “after the social media - media furore. The firestorm”.

Nisbet then went through the allegations made by the complainants and the defendant’s claims that the sexual activity that occurred was consensual, telling the jury “the young women were intrigued by him, beguiled by him - he got that, he took advantage of that, but he did not rape them”.  

“He’s a young man who doesn’t behave well all the time but bad behaviour, if you categorise it as that, is not criminal behaviour. It’s simply bad behaviour. ”

“People have a freedom of choice. Even young people. [They’re] old enough to vote, old enough to drink and old enough to misbehave … They experiment. They experience different things and they’re all smart enough and know enough not to participate in unsafe practices. They may have concluded after the event that maybe it was unsafe but at the time … the defence say they were consenting.” 

The prosecution’s evidence had not reached “the quality that you would expect evidence to be if it was going to firmly convict,” Nisbet told the jury.

“When you contrast his evidence with some of the concessions made by complainants during cross examination, it’s not that clear cut, is it? Those concessions mean he’s probably, or that he’s possibly, right about what happened between him and these women.” 

He urged the jury to go back and consider the case, arguing the complainants’ evidence is not good enough to find the defendant guilty.  

Nisbet said they had to be firmly convinced the Crown had “got it absolutely right”. 

“You’ve got to be sure you get it right. It’s obvious isn’t it, there’s very serious consequences … These are young people living their lives, making their own choices, targeting - in my submission - the defendant for whatever reason, and he’s here because of that.” 

What to expect tomorrow

Judge Andrew Becroft will sum up the evidence and advise the jury of the law they must apply when deciding if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charges.

Top Image: The District Court in Wellington. Photo: Anna Harcourt/Re:

Correction (21/10/2022, 12.44pm): Re: News incorrectly reported details surrounding two of the charges. This has been corrected to say: "And for the two indecent assault charges and two unlawful sexual connection charges, the defendant denied anything happened at all. And if sexual assaults did occur, he says it wasn’t him who committed them." 

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