A Seventh Day Adventist preacher who stood trial on sixteen charges including two of rape, two of kidnapping and four of assault was last week found guilty of the violent rape and abuse of a woman he met through a religious social media site.
Teina Toru previously pleaded not guilty to 15 charges, including two counts of rape, two of kidnapping, three of assault with intent to injure and one of attempting to pervert the course of justice and had faced a judge-alone trial in the High Court at New Plymouth since May 14.
Justice Robert Dobson delivered his verdicts on Tuesday last week, finding Toru guilty of all counts.
Toru has now been convicted of repeated violent attacks and of sexually assaulting the complainant on two separate days in July 2017.
The pair knew each other after meeting via a religious social media site and during her evidence, the victim described Toru as a “preacher” who often counselled others by offering bible scriptures of encouragement.
She said that after meeting online and bonding over religious belief, the two lived together at a number of addresses. She said that her background as a former Jehovah’s Witness led to many “passionate arguments.”
While the woman recounted the violence and rapes during her police interview, she was, however, reluctant to give evidence in court when she entered the witness box. She only relented after being warned of legal consequences for not testifying.
During her testimony, she repeatedly denied the sexual assaults took place until the prosecution could then play her police statement in which she described the alleged rapes in graphic detail.
In the tapes, she said,
“He was saying he was the man of the house and I was to submit to him and not speak.”
She also added that the attacks had left her feeling like a sex object and called Toru “crazy and sick.”
Regardless of her incessant denial of assault, the Crown concluded that Toru’s undue influence over the woman had played a role in her changing her story and minimising what took place between them.
The complainant who has an automatic name suppression was present in court to hear Justice Dobson’s verdicts and he addressed her.
“I acknowledge what an ordeal the trial and giving evidence has been for you,” he said.
He said while the outcome may not be what she wanted, her desire to keep matters private was outweighed by the community interest for there to be prosecutions in cases involving violent offending against women.
Defence lawyer Turitea Bolstad inquired about restorative justice on Toru’s behalf and the judge said that was something which could be discussed with the probation officer, given the dynamics involved in the case.
Toru was remanded into custody ahead of his sentencing on June 15.
Eight of the charges against him are qualifying offences under the three strikes law and a warning will be issued at his next appearance.
Additional reporting by Stuff