Audacious, brazen, preposterous and unbelievable is how the High Court judge who will decide whether a Cambridge horse rider is guilty of sexually abusing young girls described the terrible crimes committed by her partner.

And yet, the vile acts did happen – in one case, with the mother of one of the victims in the room next door.

For the past two weeks, Justice Matthew Muir has watched video footage of girls as young as 3 being violated, read text messages where children are discussed in sexually explicit terms, and listened to the evidence of the woman on trial.

Laken Maree Rose pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of sexual violation, indecently assaulting children under 12, making objectionable publications, possessing objectionable material and inducing young persons to commit indecent acts.

The charges against Rose relate to four girls aged between 3 and 14 at various locations including Palmerston North, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty over a five-year period.

She did plead guilty to nine charges of inducing a young person to commit an indecent act, in relation to the 14-year-old complainant.

Rose’s defence to most of the remaining 50 charges she faces is that she was compelled to participate under duress by her former partner Andrew Alan Williams.

The 54-year-old Williams pleaded guilty to 56 charges at the start of the trial two weeks ago.

These offences against seven victims including eight of rape, along with a raft of charges for sexually violating young girls, indecently assaulting children under 12, making objectionable publications, possessing objectionable material and inducing young persons to commit indecent acts.

The evidence in the trial finished last week and the lawyers for the prosecution and the defence made their final submissions to Justice Muir.

Anna Pollett, the Crown Solicitor for Tauranga, said Rose and Williams acted together in “joint enterprise” to groom young girls for sexual offending.

In her opinion, Pollett said Justice Muir could consider Rose’s evidence as “implausible” given the weight of the conflicting evidence gathered by the police.

Rose admitted lying to the police and Pollett said these were “self-serving” lies, which undermined the credibility of her evidence in court.

“There is a clear pattern of escalation. There is grooming, which escalates to filming, which escalates to sexual offending. This is a joint enterprise [between Williams and Rose], they had a common purpose,” said Pollett

“The proof is in the video. The video has been the downfall of these two.”

Pollett and Justice Muir discussed how the offending admitted by Williams, in which he sexually violated a 3-year-old girl in her bedroom while Rose had a cup of tea with the girl’s mother in next room.

“In my life experience, I would have thought that was unbelievable,” said Justice Muir, who also described Williams’ offending as brazen, preposterous and audacious.

Pollett criticised Rose’s explanation that she believed Williams only wanted to take photographs – not sexually abuse the 3-year-old girls – because at that stage, Rose had already knew Williams had violated a girl of a similar age.

In respect of the defence of compulsion, Pollett said Rose had not established the necessary elements needed to be successful.

There must be a threat to kill or cause grievous bodily harm, and second the threat would be carried out immediately following a refusal to commit the offence.

Third, the person making the threat must be present when the crime is committed. Finally, the accused must commit the offence in the belief that otherwise the threat will be carried out immediately.

“Fear caused by general threats is not enough,” said Pollett, pointing out there were no text messages where Williams threatened Rose.

In her evidence, Rose said that Williams was never “stupid” enough to write down his threats. Williams threatened to kill her, or her family, or her pets, either in person or in phone conversations.

“He strangled me every morning at the park… leaned over and placed weight on my neck,” said Rose, in explaining the indecent assaults and violations of two girls, aged 4 and 8, at a Bay of Plenty camping ground.

In making his final submissions to Justice Muir, Phillip Morgan QC said his client could not be considered a party to the sexual abuse committed by Williams, as the Crown could not prove Rose’s intention was to encourage her partner.

“She’s not there to aid him, or encourage him, she’s there because that’s what [Williams] has decreed.”

In the case of the indecent act and sexual violation charges laid in respect to the 14-year-old girl, Morgan said the defence was consent.

Rose’s evidence was she had told the girl of Williams’ sexual interest, as well as his violence, and so the teenager agreed to participate in the sexual acts.

For the other remaining charges, Morgan maintained Rose was compelled to participate under the threat of violence from Williams.

Justice Muir hopes to give his judgment on Rose’s guilt or acquittal before Christmas, but said it was a difficult and complex case which he’d like to “erase”.

He thanked Pollett and Morgan for their professionalism, and the decision each made to tackle the case without assistance from a younger lawyer which he presumed was to protect them from the evidence.

Where to get help:

• If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
• Male Survivors Aotearoa offers a range of confidential support at centres across New Zealand – find your closest one here.
• Mosaic – Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am – 8pm)
• Alternatively contact your local police station
• If you have been abused, remember it’s not your fault.

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