Evidence doubts lead to man acquitted of sexual offending

A QUEENSLAND Judge has found a man not guilty in relation to six sexual offences he was accused of, citing doubts he has about the young complainant's evidence.

The defendant, referred to in the judgment as only SXW, was charged over six alleged offences, including that he maintained an unlawful sexual relationship with a child under the age of 16.

He was also charged with five counts of indecently dealing with the complainant, a child under the age of 12 and under his care at the time of the alleged offending.

The complainant told police the defendant started touching her genitals about a month after she moved into the defendant's house, including when she was asleep, Warwick District Court heard in during a three-day trial earlier this month.

Similar incidents had allegedly occurred at the dinner table and on the back of a quad bike when they were feeding animals on the defendant's property.

She said to police her two carers were told about the conduct but was "too scared" to tell anyone else.

Under cross-examination, she agreed before she told her support workers about the alleged offending, she had been watching an episode of Home and Away that involved a young girl with a secret.

The complainant agreed that after watching an episode of the television show Glee following this, she told a story that her support worker said closely mirrored the episode she had just watched.

The support worker gave evidence that the complainant then said, "like I had done with Home and Away", but the complainant denied this.

The Crown submitted that the support worker could not recall what type of abuse the Home and Away episode referred to.

The defendant did not give evidence during the trial.

Judge Ken Barlow said the complainant's delay in reporting the incidents, said to be between nine and 17 months before the initial complaint to police in December 2015 had an "important consequence".

"Her evidence cannot be adequately tested or met after the passage of so much time, the defendant having lost by reason of that delay some means of testing, and meeting, her allegations that would otherwise have been available," Judge Barlow said.

This delay, Judge Barlow said, was further exacerbated by the delay between the date of the complaint and when the defendant was charged in August 2018.

"By the delay, the defendant has been denied the chance to assemble, soon after the incidents are alleged to have occurred, evidence as to what he and other potential witnesses were doing when, according to the complainant, the incidents happened," he said.

Judge Barlow said while the defendant had the opportunity to commit the alleged offences, that did not mean they occurred.

"However, the implausibility of the defendant touching the complainant at the dinner table, especially on multiple occasions, and of him touching her for a long time in the presence of others in the car, are reasons to doubt that those events occurred," he said.

"The evidence that he would touch her at the table all the time seems to me to be a childish exaggeration. While it is possible that, if it happened on more than one occasion, a childish mind may subconsciously equate those events with it happening all the time, that exaggeration also throws some doubt on the reliability of the complainant's evidence generally."

In accepting evidence from her support worker, Judge Barlow said those doubts were exacerbated by an instance in which the complainant linked her false statement that derived from watching Glee with her statements made after watching Home and Away.

"The Glee episode of itself indicates that the complainant may make up stories about herself that reflect, in some degree, stories she had seen or heard about other people (real or imagined),"he said.

"For the complainant herself to link that episode with Home and Away (and therefore with the occasion when she first told someone about her allegations) leads to a reasonable possibility that she had a tendency to do that."

Due to the doubts he had set out, Judge Barlow considered there to be reasonable doubt and found the defendant not guilty on all six counts.