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Kapiti councillor found guilty of indecently assaulting staff member

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Report from RNZ
A Kāpiti Coast district councillor has been found guilty of indecently assaulting a council staff member.

David Scott, 71, has been on trial in the Wellington District Court accused of rubbing his genitals against the woman staff member during a council morning tea.

The Crown said what made his actions indecent were his grabbing of the woman, holding her and thrusting himself into her.

The defence said the complainant had exaggerated what happened and while Mr Scott accepted he had moved past her at some stage during the morning tea, that was not accompanied by any criminal intention.

The jury deliberated for three and a half hours before returning its verdict.

Judge Peter Hobbs remanded Scott on continued bail until he is sentenced next month.

He said a pre-sentence probation report would be sought but indicated he would not seek additional information which is usually provided where home detention or another restrictive type of sentence is to imposed. That suggests Scott is likely to receive a community-based sentence when he returns to Court.

Earlier today in her closing address, Crown Prosecutor Kate Feltham said whether the complainant felt Scott’s penis rubbing against her, or whether it was something else, didn’t matter. However, defence lawyer Mike Antunovic said it was utter nonsense to suggest that after 71 years of crime-free living, Scott would choose a council morning tea as the place to begin offending.

He said Scott accepted he had moved past the complainant at some stage, but that was not accompanied by any criminal intention on his part.

Judge Hobbs told the jury the Crown had to prove three things beyond reasonable doubt.

Firstly, was there an assault at all; secondly would what happened be regarded as indecent by “right-minded members of the community”, and thirdly did Scott appreciate that his actions were indecent.

“You’ll all be aware when you’ve put a hand on someone’s shoulder or back to alert them to the need to make room for you to pass. That may be done more forcefully if you’re in a crowded area.”

“Technically that’s an assault but the criminal law is not involved because it is not accompanied by any criminal intent and not thought to be indecent.”

Judge Hobbs told jurors the complainant described feeling a hand then a man’s body rubbing along her.

“Hands gripped her very tightly so she could not move forward or back. She described feeling the stomach, then a belt and then a man’s anatomy pushing into her buttocks. The Crown says if you accept that, it is an intentional indecent assault by Mr Scott.”

However, he said the defence had a different explanation for what happened during the council morning tea.

“[They say] you can’t dismiss that he might have brushed past in a crowded room with this result.

“If you find that’s what happened you must enter a not guilty verdict.”

Judge Hobbs said the Crown had suggested that Mr Scott’s claim he could not have rubbed his genitals against the woman because of an operation on his penis 15 weeks before the incident was implausible.

“[The Crown says that] is inconsistent with the evidence of his doctor.”

“The doctor said the stitches should be gone in about 3 weeks and after a month it should be fairly well healed.”

However, the Judge said the defence had also suggested the complainant had exaggerated her account of what occurred.

“The defence says no witnesses mentioned him stopping and pushing his groin into her for more than 3 seconds.”

“[They also] remind you of evidence from [a couple] who described David Scott as being white as a sheet and unsteady on his feet and expressing a need for food [before the morning tea began].

“The defence says that’s consistent with him needing insulin as he described and in need of food.”

Report from RNZ – May 22
A Kāpiti Coast district councillor has denied indecently assaulting a council staff member, saying he has the greatest respect for all women.

David Scott, 71, is on trial in the Wellington District Court, accused of rubbing his genitals against the staff member during a morning tea.

In an unusual move today, his penis was measured by a doctor after the complainant said what she had felt touch her back was four or five inches long. Judge Peter Hobbs suppressed details of the measurement obtained.

Mr Scott gave evidence in his own defence saying he had no prior convictions and was in his third term as a district councillor.

He said he had no recollection of grabbing the complainant, grinding against her for a couple of seconds and then moving on.

Mr Scott said he had had some lumps removed from his face, which his specialist had said were cancer, and late in 2016 he also had lumps removed from his penis, although he now accepted they were not cancer.

He said on the day the alleged indecent assault his penis was still feeling very sore to touch.

In cross-examination, Mr Scott said he had no prior dealings with the complainant before she began working for council and he denied having a one-on-one meeting with her in January 2017.

He said initially he had presumed that the incident the woman said had occurred had taken place while they were passing each other in the Council chamber, not in the room where the morning tea took place.

Mr Scott said when he heard she was alleging a deliberate indecency on his part he became upset and that led to this exchange with Crown Prosecutor Kate Feltham.

Q: “You asked for your apology to be taken in friendship and understanding, what did that mean?”

A: “It was a turn of phrase. I don’t like upsetting anybody and I respect women and started the Women’s Refuge in Paraparaumu. I’ve done loads of things for women for a long time.”

Q: “Understanding of what?”

A: “Taken in friendship and understanding. It’s just a phrase, it doesn’t mean anything in particular.”

Q: “Were you hoping she wouldn’t take it any further?”

A: “I wasn’t apologising for bumping, I was apologising for her being upset … for her imaginative belief that I had used my genitals, which I hadn’t.”

Earlier the jury watched a videotaped interview conducted by Detective Vanessa Knyn with Mr Scott.

In it, Mr Scott told the detective he had a doctorate in linguistics, was a justice of the peace and had done a large amount of community work over the years, including working with Grey Power and being a volunteer driver for the elderly.

He denied having touched the complainant.

“I’ll say categorically there was no indecent assault and the first time I’ve heard that expression used was you today.

“I’ve never told a lie in my life as I can recollect so I’m happy to talk to you.”

Mr Scott told the detective he had injected insulin shortly before the alleged incident and that, and the effects of the penis surgery a few months earlier, would have made it physically impossible for him to push past anyone.

“I would have been protective of here, [indicating his groin] not only from the injections I’d just put in but also because I’d had a circumcision 15 weeks before and lost a lot of my penis to cancer.”

“You try and protect yourself. You don’t want anyone backing into you.”

“I certainly wasn’t interested in [the complainant’s] bottom, I can tell you that, in any way.”

Mr Scott told Ms Knyn he was too embarrassed to talk to his doctor about the discomfort he was feeling after his surgery and after the accusation surfaced he would not have gone running off to the doctor to say someone was accusing him of pushing against her.

“I’m telling you I’m still very tender and sore and unfortunately women don’t have these things happen, but when you have half your penis cut off it’s extremely sore and tender for quite a long time.”

Mr Scott also told the police his groin would not have touched the woman because his stomach stuck out further than his genitals.

The Crown and defence are expected to give their closing addresses on Wednesday with the jury like to retire to deliberate on its verdict later in the day.

Report from RNZ – 12 May
A Kāpiti Coast district councillor accused of indecently rubbing himself against a council staffer is on trial in the Wellington District Court.

David Scott, 71, is facing one charge of indecent assault.

Crown prosecutor Kate Feltham told the court the alleged assault occurred during a morning tea at the Kāpiti Coast District Council in April last year.

She said while the complainant was talking to the mayor, Mr Scott came up and put his hand on her right hip.

“She moved to her left thinking someone was wanting to get past but instead he put his other hand on her left hip, holding her with such force she couldn’t move forward.”

“[Mr Scott] then rubbed his penis into her back, moving from one side to the other.”

Ms Feltham said the woman looked over her shoulder and saw Mr Scott and he went away without saying anything.

There was plenty of room behind her for him to walk past without any contact.

Ms Feltham said the mayor noticed something was wrong and asked if the complainant was okay.

She composed herself, said she would be fine, and left.

During the course of the day, she told a number of people what had happened and some days later made a complaint to police.

The day after the incident the complainant told Mr Scott she was no longer prepared to deal with him directly and he would have to go through the council chief executive if he wanted to discuss any matters with her.

Ms Feltham said Mr Scott sincerely apologised to the woman for any actions that might have upset her.

“He also said that he wished she’d said something at the time because he’d have explained that he’d had a recent operation on his genitals, which made any contact in that area extremely painful.

“He went on to say that when his stitches were gone he may not have to protect that area.”

Ms Feltham said the defendant was later formally interviewed by police.

He told them he did not recall seeing the woman in the morning tea room that day.

“He said that when the council adjourned for morning tea he’d gone to the toilet to inject himself with insulin, as he’s diabetic.

“He then went into the morning tea to get some cake and left again a few minutes later.”

Ms Feltham said Mr Scott denied the indecent assault and said it was physically impossible for him to have done so and the woman must have been mistaken about what occurred.

Defence lawyer Mike Antunovic chose not to make an opening statement, but indicated at least two defence witnesses will be called to give evidence.

Eight witnesses will give evidence for the Crown, including the complainant and the Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan.

The trial is taking place before a jury of six women and six men and is expected to last three days.