Man, 39, cleared of rape over sex with step-daughter, 16
A ROCKHAMPTON District Court jury was reminded it was "not a court of morality" yesterday afternoon.
That was a direction of Judge Michael Burnett in the trial of a Rockhampton step-father charged for having sex with his teenage step-daughter.
But it took the jury two hours to find the defendant not guilty of all five charges.
Throughout the three day trail the court heard it was not contested the man, who was 39 at the time of offending, had sex with the girl, who was 16, but it was contested if the girl gave consent.
"You've heard through the whole case that consent is the issue," Judge Burnett said.
"This is not a case of morals, this is a case of law.
"That is the very heart of the case and the matter of fact to be determined."
He said there was an "expression of absence of consent" when the complainant gave evidence but the jury had to decide if "consent was freely and voluntarily given" at the time of the alleged offending.
The Crown submitted the age disparity between the defendant and the complainant and the nature of the relationship was a strong element of its case as well as the complainant's "fear of intimidation and fear of bodily injury if she did not give consent".
The court heard in recorded police evidence, the defendant said the complainant went to him and said she was "desperate to have sex" and, under the belief she was confused about her sexuality, he "went through the process of bringing her out of the closet".
"I don't think I should have done it but I don't think it was rape," he said in evidence.
The court heard the defendant told police the situation "was getting too freaking weird", he "lost the plot" and "it had to stop".
Judge Burnett said it was submitted the case was of a "young girl curious about her sexuality in a family environment where things might have been more liberal than in some households" and "it was something of a voyage of self discovery".
The defendant previously pleaded not guilty to five charges including two counts of rape and three counts of unlawful and indecent assault.
They related to multiple alleged sexual and physical encounters between the defendant and the victim.