Court acquits security guard on ‘grooming’ allegations

| 11/07/2017

(CNS): A 43-year-old man who was working as a security guard at a supermarket was acquitted Tuesday of indecent assault and unlawful confinement charges after a judge said there was not enough evidence to convince him beyond reasonable doubt that the allegations were true. The man was accused of luring a teenage boy into his car and locking him inside, stroking his hand and attempting to kiss him. In the words of the teenager, he had “tried to turn him gay”.

Justice Charles Quin heard the case last week without a jury. Although he described both the boy, who was 15 at the time and is now 17, and the accused man as being credible witnesses, he said that the boy’s story had a number of inconsistencies that undermined the evidence.

The man who had been accused of trying to groom the teenager had consistently and categorically denied the allegations. He had a clean record and had been married for some 14 years with two children. He had also presented glowing references to the court.

The accused man had claimed that the boy had totally misread and then exaggerated what had actually happened in the few moments that he was in his car.

Although the case was based on the evidence given by the teenager, who had a part-time job at the same store as the security officer, the court heard that the youngster had told a woman at his church the morning after the alleged incident. She had advised the boy to tell his mother but he had told her that he was afraid to because all she ever did was “bash him about” and he felt he would somehow be blamed for putting himself in the situation.

He was, however, persuaded to tell his story to his family, and it was then reported to the store and the police. The teenager did not know the guard’s name but had described him to the supermarket management, who identified the man.

He was later charged based on the boy’s account.

The crown had submitted that the teen had no motivation to make up the allegation and had even been concerned that he would be in trouble for allowing himself to be lured into the car. As she summarized the case, prosecutor Toyin Salako had said the inconsistencies of the teenager’s account related to peripheral issues and were not material and that he never exaggerated the allegations, which did not amount to a serious assault.

But, she said, there was evidence of a pattern of grooming, as the guard had earlier in the day offered to help the boy buy a phone after he told him he had lost his. Salako also pointed to the strange claims by the defendant that he had sat in silence with the boy except for one comment, which he claimed meant nothing. When he asked the child how he was, the boy had said he had issues and the guard had responded by saying, “But you know someone cares for you.”

However, defence attorney Nicholas Dixey had argued that the case was about the young boy misreading a situation. His client offered to make a small contribution towards helping him buy a phone because he was aware that he would get in trouble for losing his and he was concerned about his young work colleague.

When he had given evidence, the guard had said that he was in his car when the young man had approached him looking for coins. He had then got into the vehicle and sat mostly in silence. The man said the comment about someone caring for him was a generic remark meaning that whatever was troubling him, there were people who cared about him.

When the guard went to move his car to a different parking spot, as it was getting late, and put the key in the ignition, the doors automatically locked. But Dixey suggested that when the boy asked to get out, more misunderstandings occurred.

His client had leaned over to hear what the boy had said, and when he realised he had asked to get out, he released the locks. The attorney argued that as the guard leaned over the boy to lift the lock, the teenager could have misread the entire situation.

Justice Quin commended the police and prosecutors for putting together what he said was a very sensitive case, but he said no one was at fault. As he delivered his not guilty verdict, he said that, given the two conflicting but credible accounts, there simply was not enough evidence that the guard had indecently assaulted the child or tried to confine him in the car.

Category: Courts, Crime

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