Evidence against Webster ‘overwhelming’, says crown

| 19/06/2017

(CNS): In a relatively short summary of her case against Errington Webster for indecent assault and gross indecency, crown prosecutor Darlene Oko urged the jury to find him guilty, saying that the evidence against him was “overwhelming”. She said that the former firefighter had targeted and groomed his victim and the video evidence showed that he was making things up as he went along when it came to his claims that he was out of his mind at the time and not aware that he was masturbating in a car in front of the girl.

However, Steve McField, the defence attorney representing Webster, accused the teenager of lying. He said she was attempting to blackmail the would-be politician and had fabricated the allegation that Webster had oral sex with her and touched her breasts and genitals. He insisted that the crown had no evidence that the child was telling the truth about the three counts of indecent assault, and stuck to his client’s claims that he was unaware of his actions on the video. 

As Oko spoke to the jury about the two-week trial and the evidence they had seen, she reminded them several times not to lose sight of the fact that the girl was a child. She said they should not underestimate the lure of what Webster, a man almost four times her age, was offering and the imbalance of power in the relationship reflected in the more than 1,110 text messages between them.

She said the girl was too young to see through the manipulation “to the sinister motives” that Webster had as he lured her in and “made deals”, giving her things and promising even more in order to satisfy his own sexual gratification.

The prosecutor said that the jury was being asked to accept an explanation of the incriminating video that was not credible. The claims of amnesia and him being in some kind of altered state for that very slender but critical period of the day in question was no more than an attempt at malingering to evade taking responsibility for his actions.

Oko stressed the openness, credibility and the honesty of the teenager, who had not tried to cover up the fact that she often asked him for money and that she wanted the gifts and cash he offered her in exchange for these “deals”. She contrasted this with the numerous lies Webster had told the police, his evasiveness on the stand when answering questions and the twists and turns as he sought to explain the text messages between the two that served to undermine his claims of being merely a supportive counsellor figure to the girl.

Meanwhile, defence attorney Steve McField spent well over two and a half hours summarising his client’s defence Friday afternoon. He insisted that Webster was the one who was being manipulated because of his political ambition and her demands for cash. He said the girl could cry on demand and she had asked Webster for money in the messages on more than forty occasions. The attorney asked the jury to think about why the child continued to see Webster if he had really done all of these things. McField said she was intending to blackmail him with the video if Webster had been elected.

“The truth of the matter is this 13-year-old child …this young lady, was more than a child,” he said, as he referred to her demands for cash, which he said she was deliberately concealing from her own mother.

He said the child had been asked about any sexual conversation between herself and Webster and she had denied it many times and had even failed to tell the police in her first interview when the video came to light about the indecent assaults. McField suggested that nothing had happened until the video came out.

“Was she ever going to tell anyone if the video had not come out?” McField asked the jury rhetorically and claimed the evidence did not point to his client’s guilt. “The evidence points to the fact that this child is not a truthful person and that she has concocted this whole story,” he said.

McField said there were discrepancies in the timeline of the masturbating video as well as the one taken of Webster at the bank. He also suggested that the crown had a problem with the timeline of its case regarding when it said the indecent assaults took place. He said the crown had fallen well short of the burden of proof and that there were questions that should concern the jury. 

He said he did not think the jury should be satisfied with the standard of proof presented by the crown and that they could not be sure, given Dr Marc Lockhart’s evidence, that Webster was not in a disassociated state on the video and unaware of what he was doing. He said the crown had not proved the case beyond reasonable doubt, so the jury must acquit his client.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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