Not guilty plea on child sex charges

Friday December 08, 2017 Written by Published in Crime
The trial of a man facing nine charges of sexual assault will be held in the Avarua High Court in March next year. 17120750 The trial of a man facing nine charges of sexual assault will be held in the Avarua High Court in March next year. 17120750

A man facing nine charges of sexual assault involving the violation of several children under the age of 15, pleaded not guilty to all charges in the Avarua High Court on Wednesday.

 

The 49-year-old Palmerston Island resident also elected to be tried by judge and jury

Andrew Marsters, represented by defence counsel Norman George, appeared before Justice Christine Grice for a call over regarding the charges. The call over was for applications to be made regarding the upcoming trial.

Details of the complainants and the nature of charges are to remain permanently suppressed for both the protection of the children, and because the details of the alleged assaults are “too graphic”. Alison Mills, who is leading the Crown Prosecution team, told the court a trial date would be scheduled for the March session of the High Court in 2018.

She said it would be a tough and lengthy trial, that could last up to eight days. A standard trial lasts around three days. 

Mills also suggested that the Justice ministry increase the pool of jury members to be summonsed, as having to spend eight days in court could prove troublesome for fulltime workers. Grice agreed.

The court was told the trial would be closed to the public, due to the nature of the charges and the evidence that will be given by the young complainants.

Grice noted an application for bail had previously been filed by George and denied by Justice Patrick Keane. She said this was on grounds that Keane was concerned with the recommended accommodation Marsters would preside at, and the risk he would pose to children at that address. 

In his initial submissions on Wednesday December 6, George proposed a new address in Avatiu. He said the house wasn’t “five star” but was secluded, and that to his knowledge there were no children close by.

However, Mills informed Grice that she had given George a signed affidavit earlier in the session from a CIB inspector who had discovered there were 10 children under the age of 16 living in surrounding homes. She said George’s version of an events differed from her own and that there was still a risk to children.

An angry George then alleged police had gone behind his back to investigate the surrounding houses, saying it was an “abuse of process”, one that he found very “unsatisfactory”. 

George said the reality was that there was no “perfect bail system in the world”, and that the bail address he had proposed was satisfactory.

He said the offences had allegedly taken place 500km away on Palmerston island, not in Avatiu or on Rarotonga. In his many years as a defence lawyer he had never had a client “repeat offend” when on bail, and he believed Marsters should be granted bail until his trial in March.  Mills, however, described the risk to other children as “real and justified”. She noted Marsters had previously come to the attention of police on similar charges, but had not been convicted. She also said that the offending would appear to be repetitive, as it has allegedly occurred on multiple occasions – leading to the nine charges.

George disputed this.

“This man poses a real risk to all young children, these are serious charges and if found guilty the defendant would inevitably face a custodial sentence,” Mill said.  She added that a continued remand would in no way prejudice the defence’s case.

Mills agreed with George that to find accommodation on Rarotonga that was not close proximity to children would be difficult, but added that Avatiu was a densely populated location and close to a school and the wharf. It was no place for an accused sexual offender to preside, she said.

Grice agreed and said that due to the nature of the charges she was not inclined to grant bail.

“I am not satisfied this is far enough away from children.”

As of right George could again apply for bail for his client at any point before the trial, but for now, she believed the defendant’s risk to children remained real and justified.

The matter will appear before the courts in January for a call over, before the trial in March.

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