A JURY has found a Sebastopol man not guilty of committing an indecent act with a child under 16.
The man, 59, cried and mouthed “thank you” to the jury when the verdict was handed down at 4.15pm in the County Court at Ballarat yesterday.
The jury of seven women and five men took most of the day to reach the verdict.
The man was charged following allegations from a 13-year-old girl, who stayed in the man’s house while visiting his daughter over the Queen’s Birthday weekend last year.
The court heard from several witnesses during the short trial,.
Witnesses included the girl, her parents and the accused.
The girl’s mother told the court her daughter was staying over at a friend’s home on the night of June 12, 2011.
The mother said her daughter told her the next evening that her friend’s father – the accused – had woken her up in the morning by touching her between her legs. She said her daughter grabbed his hand and asked what he was doing, to which he replied: “Good morning”.
Later her father gave evidence, telling the court his daughter seemed “a bit distant”, but otherwise fine on the morning of the alleged incident.
He explained his daughter had stayed in the accused’s home a number of times before because she was friends with the accused’s daughter.
The accused told the jury he was innocent. “I didn’t do this and I wouldn’t do it,” he said.
The court heard the girl’s evidence, which was heard in-camera, stated the alleged offender said “hello”, rather than “good morning”.
Defence counsel said those sort of “key differences” between the girl’s account and her mother’s re-telling could not be overlooked by the jury.
Several detectives from the Ballarat Sexual Offence and Child Abuse Investigative Team, including the investigating officer, were in the courtroom for the verdict yesterday.
The judge ordered the man released from the dock following the verdict, where he immediately embraced his wife. He appeared visibly relieved, but declined to make any comment on the outcome of the case.