November 5th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Child sexual abuse charges have finally been dropped against a New Zealand father. The man, who’s not named due to legal restrictions, was finally freed from the charges by a court in October. That ended 20 months of relentless efforts by police and prosecutors to try to convict him of sexually abusing his daughter despite clear evidence of his innocence. Read about it here (Nelson Mail, 11/3/12).
In a social environment less hysterical about child well-being, the charges would have been considered ludicrous, but 20 months later, the father still has only closely supervised visitation with his three daughters, none of whom has he ever harmed.
The facts of the case are these: in January of 2011, the man and his family, consisting of his wife and their three daughters took a holiday near Ruby Bay on the northern tip of the south island. All were having a great time when the police arrived and questioned the father about allegations someone had made about his inappropriate touching of one of the girls, age 10 at the time. The family thought little of the incident; each member assured the officer that nothing inappropriate had happened and the girls all showed appropriate affection for their father. Into the bargain, there were some 300 people in the same location and in broad daylight to boot.
The family figured that was that until almost three months later at the end of March the police reappeared demanding one of the man’s shirts and a dress. Just what they thought they could learn from the clothing three months after the supposed incident is anyone’s guess, but the family handed the items over.
And then began the Inspector Jouvert routine we see so often. The state’s evidence would have been laughable had the charges not been so serious, but the police were determined to incarcerate the man regardless. It consisted of someone’s claim that he/she/they had seen the father kissing the girl, patting her on the bottom and her stroking his chest and leg. If all that seems benign enough, consider the fact that none of the witnesses could describe the alleged “victim.” One apparently described the 10-year-old as about as tall as the man and wearing a dress. Another said she was small – perhaps eight years old – and wearing shorts. Armed with this and nothing more, the police charged the man with indecent assault.
The man’s defense lawyers asked the police to drop the charges, but they refused. Months later, they got to court and the Justice of the Peace ordered the charges dropped, but the state appealed and convinced a court to allow them to reinstate the charges. Finally at trial last month, the judge dismissed the charges against the father.
Now, it’s plain that the police never had much to go on – the obviously faulty observations of witnesses whose accounts disagreed in essentially every respect. That, plus the fact that the man was supposed to have done this in broad daylight in front of 300 people makes the state’s case dubious at best. But then of course there was the man himself and his family who said that nothing of the sort had occurred. He has no criminal record. His wife said she’s known him for 26 years and he’d never behaved inappropriately toward children, and the girl herself told the police repeatedly that her father had done nothing untoward.
But that’s far from everything. After all, we’d expect a man’s family to rally around him. But many people who had been at the bay side that day came forward to say that they’d seen the man and his family and that he was entirely innocent of the charges. What did the police do with all that evidence that directly contradicted the other witnesses’ accounts? They ignored it completely. That’s right, they simply refused to take statements from witnesses who didn’t support the man’s guilt.
While pleased to walk free from the court, the father is disturbed at what happened.
Particularly concerning was the police refusal to take statements from independent witnesses in his support, he said.
A Wellington family, which had never met the family until camping at the reserve, only became aware of the charges in August last year. The mother then wrote to Motueka police saying she saw the events at close range and could give an impartial account.
Another couple at the domain who knew the family said it was inconceivable that anything inappropriate could have happened. It was daylight, with a large number of people around the playground, and camp sites next to it. If anything inappropriate had happened they would have intervened, the man said.
Another woman, a nurse, who was there also said the accusations were nonsense.
Yet the police did not interview these witnesses.
So the police and prosecutors were so determined to jail an innocent man that they ignored all the evidence in his favor. They also ignored the clearly unreliable claims of their own witnesses.
Father Loses Children Despite His Innocence on Sex Abuse Charges
And of course throughout the man’s 20-month ordeal, he’s been separated from his children. That happened the day after the police arrived at his house to commandeer his and his daughter’s clothing. He was arrested and jailed. Before the day had ended, he had been ordered by a magistrate to have no contact with anyone in his family. That lasted until September 29th when he was permitted one hour of supervised visitation with his daughters. To this day, his only contact with the girls has been supervised. He’s done nothing wrong, but for reasons unknown to the mind of mere mortals, he can’t have a normal relationship with his kids nor they with him.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it now; children have become the door through which the state steps into our once private family life. The cry “for the good of the children” has come to trump privacy, due process of law, decency and common sense. But since that is the battle cry of the state against the family, let’s ask the fathers’ daughters how it’s working out for them.
The girl told the Nelson Mail her father had not done anything wrong.
The charges were based on events over two days, January 3 and 4 last year.
“I wasn’t even there the second day, I went to my friend’s place,” she said. “When he was taken away I used to cry because I miss him. I love my Dad.”
The mother is now separated from the man but said she totally supported him.
“I have known him for 26 years and he has never exhibited in any way or form that suggested behaviour.”
She was distraught when he was arrested, and the upset children had missed their father during the eight months he was not allowed any contact.
“One of the children thought he was dead, and another was trying to get lemons to make lemonade to pay to get her father back from the police,” she said. “I don’t think I can ever trust the police again.”
And don’t forget, the expansion of state power under the banner of protecting children enlists the aid of our friends and neighbors, teachers, doctors, nurses, teachers’ aides, mental health professionals and the like. It’s like the Stasi in communist East Germany and none of these reporters, whether mandated or not, seems willing to exercise the least common sense about children’s welfare. We like to think that the child sexual abuse hysteria of the 1980s is over, but is it?
The judge said: “There is a distinct danger in this case that the Crown witnesses were somewhat carried away, perhaps, by what someone believed they saw, and possibly there was an infection that ran through the people there.
The father said much the same thing.
“It’s unbelievable that gossip can have such power and these people did not investigate properly or stop to have a wee think.”
…”Once they lay charges the process goes into place and the steamroller does not stop, and there is nobody to take a balanced, logical view and for common sense.”
My guess is that much was learned in this case. I’d say the state’s witnesses learned that they, as ordinary citizens have considerable power over the lives of their neighbors. A casual word to the local constabulary from any one of us can destroy large parts of another person’s life, particularly if that person is a man. The police learned much the same lesson, although I’m sure the pedagogy was more in the nature of a refresher course than new material. They know, I suspect, that they can bring the flimsiest of cases and not pay the slightest price for having done so.
The girls learned a lot. They learned that, regardless of how joyful, peaceful and serene their lives appear to be, that can be destroyed at any time, courtesy of the state. They learned the love of their lives, their support and champion through thick and thin, can be taken away at any moment. They’ve learned to not trust the police or the state generally. They’ve learned how vulnerable men are to a single word uttered by anyone, a complete stranger or his nearest and dearest.
And of course the man has learned the same thing. While he fights daily to get back into the lives of his daughters, to once again be the loving, protective father he’s always been, at the back of his mind, he now knows for certain, just how fragile a thing his father-daughter relationships are.
As someone once said, “Education is never wasted.”