R v Saxon [2018] NZDC 16325

Published 12 September 2019

Mode of evidence — complainant behind screen — threatening with menace — male assaults female — theft — possession of an offensive weapon — assault with a weapon — attempted arson — risk of prejudice to defendant — right to a fair trial — Evidence Act 2006 — New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The defendant faced charges of demanding with menace, three charges of male assaults female, theft, possession of an offensive weapon, assault with a weapon and attempted arson. It was alleged that he had demanded the complainant give him her car, threatened her, assaulted her, cut her with a knife and tried to torch her car. In this matter the Crown applied for a direction that the complainant be allowed to give her evidence behind a screen, citing her fears of intimidation, the nature of the proceedings, the nature of the evidence she would give and the relationship between her and the defendant. The defendant opposed the application, saying that he had not tried to intimidate the complainant and that to allow the direction would cause him significant prejudice. The Court agreed that there was no evidence that the defendant had tried to intimidate the complainant. However given that the alleged offending involved serious violence, it would likely be stressful and traumatic for the complainant to give evidence. The Court added that experience suggests that allowing complainants to give evidence from behind a screen does not cause significant prejudice to defendants and that juries properly take account of judicial warnings. The defendant and the jury would still be able to see the complainant via television screens in the courtroom. The Court granted the Crown's application. Judgment Date: 6 August 2018.