Exploitation of intellectually impaired woman retrial order
A DECISION about whether a taxi driver sexually exploited an intellectually impaired young woman or whether they were in a consensual sexual relationship must be made by a jury.
The Court of Appeal found this was a "difficult, nuanced, quintessential jury question" when it quashed carnal knowledge and indecent dealing convictions against Russell Selwyn Little.
Justice Margaret McMurdo said, in a judgment published on Friday, she was not persuaded it was appropriate for the appeal court to make a finding on the crucial question.
She said properly instructed juries could reasonably have reached different conclusions, resulting in either acquittal or conviction, by assessing the testimony of Little and the woman.
"This required the making of value judgments about the notoriously difficult matter of the nature of other people's intimate relationships," she said.
Little faced a trial in Brisbane District Court last year for sexual activity with a 22-year-old woman who had an IQ of 64 which meant she had an intellectual disability amounting to an impairment of mind.
The 53-year-old was a taxi driver who drove disabled people to a workshop where the woman worked.
He would sometimes collect the woman from her bus stop when he had a spare seat and they became friendly.
Little told the court what happened next was the development of a loving relationship and the woman referred to him as her boyfriend.
The matter came to police attention after the woman told someone at the disability workshop where she worked about their relationship.
Justice McMurdo said the trial judge did not give the jury a mandatory warning about the woman's support person being present during her pre-recorded evidence which resulted in Little being denied procedural fairness.
She said the woman regularly turned to her support person throughout her testimony and made non-verbal communication.
Ms McMurdo ordered a retrial but noted Little had already spent 18 months in custody in leaving the prosecution to make a decision about whether to proceed again.