Thursday, December 11, 2008

Man who spent 10 months in jail for a rape he didn't commit wants his false accuser to get the same sentence

Man freed from jail after false rape evidence admission

Man freed from jail after false rape evidence admission

by Kelly Makiha

A Rotorua man's former partner has admitted gathering false evidence which led to his being jailed for rape before a court quashed his conviction.

Robert Sutton, who owns the Happy Angler store at Mourea, spent 10 months behind bars after being convicted in October 2005 of two violent rapes he says he never committed. He was released following a successful appeal and feels the wheels of justice are finally starting to turn in his favour.

The main complainant in the case against him, his former partner Marion Anne Carter, has this week admitted her role in Mr Sutton's wrongful conviction, pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice.

Now Mr Sutton has just one wish - that she too spend 10 months in jail.

"I shared a cell with a guy who was doing 17 years non-parole for murder. It didn't make sleeping very easy. I don't wish it on anyone - but her."

Carter, who lives in Te Awamutu, pleaded guilty this week in the District Court at Te Awamutu and will appear in court in Hamilton on October 31 for sentencing. The charge of perverting the course of justice carries a maximum penalty of seven years' jail.

Mr Sutton was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in October 2005 after being convicted of 15 charges - two of rape, nine of assault and four relating to assault with a weapon.

Carter had told police she was raped by Mr Sutton after he broke down a locked bedroom door. There were two other complainants involved in the other charges. Mr Sutton walked free after serving 10 months and one day in jail. He fought his conviction from behind bars. The Court of Appeal quashed his convictions in light of new evidence showing Carter was "involved in gathering false evidence in support of the allegations prior to the trial".

The police decided in August last year they would not put Mr Sutton on trial a second time.

He told The Daily Post yesterday he wrote to Police Minister Annette King and Bay of Plenty police district commander Superintendent Gary Smith following his release, asking that Carter be arrested and charged.

"I'm pleased with the outcome, that they did charge her with perverting the course of justice. I think she deserves a prison sentence the same as I did ... then [she shall know] what her lies can get her into."

Mr Sutton said her arrest also sent a strong message to women about the consequences of making false allegations. That, in turn, was good news for those with legitimate complaints. "The police will then take more notice of women who are genuinely raped."

Asked what had happened between he and Carter that would cause her to falsify evidence against him, Mr Sutton said their 10-year relationship had been rocky and there were regular arguments about money and the business.

He said the whole ordeal had made him "very gun shy of women" and he would not jump into another relationship but was now starting to enjoy life again following a harrowing three years. Loyal local customers and "some very good friends" had helped him through a very tough time, he said.

"It's been a hell of a battle for me, getting back into my business again. I'm lucky the people of Mourea have been wonderful but financially it just about cost me the shop."

He estimates his time in prison plus the ordeal of the court process have cost him about $100,000, which included the cost of hiring a lawyer for his appeal. Mr Sutton said he was considering seeking compensation. "It would be good if I could but I'm not sure what tact to take now."