Guilty verdict in rape trial meant victim felt 'heard'

Published date03 March 2022
Publication titleOtago Daily Times: Web Edition Articles (New Zealand)
But she wrote in her victim impact statement: "The trial was incredibly difficult. I struggled with the process of being questioned about being complicit and consenting. The guilty verdicts were such a relief. I felt heard."

The man, Joel Comerford, who was aged 36 at the time of the rape, was jailed for seven years by Christchurch District Court Judge Tom Gilbert, on the rape charge as well as a charge of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection.

Comerford still denies the offending but his defence counsel Joshua Shaw said he had already begun rehabilitation, recognising how profoundly alcohol and drugs had affected his life.

Shaw asked the judge to carefully consider the woman's state of intoxication at the time of the incident - she had described being "unable to resist for a time" - and pointed out that as soon as she signalled her resistance, Comerford had stopped having sex and apologised.

Judge Gilbert and Crown prosecutor Penny Brown both rejected the idea that there could be a mistaken belief in consent by Comerford.

Judge Gilbert said Comerford had "constantly badgered" the woman for sex when they spent some time together away from Christchurch one day, and she had agreed to spend a night at a motel with him, but in separate beds, and on the basis that there would be no sex.

At the motel, they listened to music, drank alcohol, and Comerford would not let her see how much MDMA - Ecstasy - he was giving her.

She told the trial the drugs hit her hard, and she "essentially passed out". She woke to find Comerford kissing her neck and undressing her but she was unable to talk or move.

He performed oral sex...

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