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Accused facing indecent assault, contempt charges allowed to travel

Friday 22 December 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Court, National


Accused facing indecent assault, contempt charges allowed to travel

An expat facing a charge of indecent assault and two charges of contempt has been allowed to travel overseas.

Justice of the Peace John Whitta suppressed all details that could identify the complainant when the defendant appeared in the Criminal Court at Avarua on Thursday.

Defence lawyer Mark Short said he had filed some documents and asked for the defendant’s passport to be released so they could visit family.

Short said his client was not a flight risk and had a multi-year contract with the organisation.

The organisation was aware of the charges and remained neutral on the matter.

Crown Law prosecutor Lucinda Rishworth said there was no opposition to the defendant travelling, provided there was continuation of their employment and proof of a return airfare, in order for the passport to be released.

Short said he was awaiting more information from police before reading a submission, saying the defendant was highly qualified, and describing their role in the organisation.

Short said the alleged offending did not fall into a serious category.

His client was stressed as a result and would be entering a not guilty plea.

Short said running away would destroy his client’s career and they would provide evidence of return travel.

JP Whitta asked what would be the likely date of return, Short saying towards the end of January.

The matter would be heard by the Chief Justice on February 2, 2024.

JP Whitta said the defendant would need to be back in the Cook Islands before that date, and a return airfare to be presented.

Cook Islands News challenged the bid for name suppression, while Short lodged an application for suppression, saying publishing the defendant’s name would be onerous to the court.

Rishworth said the Crown did not have an issue with name suppression provided there were more details available at the next appearance so they could ask more questions about suppression.

Again, Cook Islands News challenged suppression on the grounds of public interest, given the charges.

Short said naming the defendant could jeopardise their position and it would be better for the charges to be confirmed.

“Every person is innocent until proven guilty,” Short said.

JP Whitta said name suppression could be granted with consequences, it could be useful if the immediate effect outweighed the offence.

Again, Short said the alleged offending was on the lower scale.

JP Whitta said he would grant name suppression until February 2, 2024.

All details that could identify the complainant were suppressed.

The matter was adjourned to February 2 and bail variations were put in place.

The defendant was given leave to travel and told to return their passport to authorities on the first working day after their arrival on Rarotonga.