A rising Canberra sports star has had his convictions for raping a teenage girl overturned after an ACT court upheld his appeal.
The appellant, who cannot be named because he was under 18 at the time of the alleged offending, pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape and one count of committing an act of indecency without consent.
In June 2020, he was found guilty of all three charges, alleged to have happened in April 2018, after a judge-alone trial.
He was sentenced in September last year to a fully suspended term of 11 months and avoided being included on the child sex offender register.
In his judgment following trial, Justice David Mossop said the complainant picked the appellant from a birthday party before the alleged offending happened in the back seat of her car at a car park.
The appellant asked the complainant if he could give her oral sex to which she said no, but he allegedly licked her thigh.
He then allegedly penetrated her multiple times despite her telling him "no" and "stop".
She eventually stopped protesting, turned her head and cried before he stopped about 20 seconds later.
It is important that the onus and standard of proof is not reversed.Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson
During trial, the complainant said the appellant grabbed the car keys and spent about 40 minutes wanting to discuss what had happened.
The complainant said he finally gave the keys back when she said she was not going to tell anyone.
The appellant, who had drunk up to six beers at the birthday party, gave evidence that she had agreed to have sex, but it stopped after about 10 seconds because "it just got real awkward".
Justice Mossop said he accepted "beyond reasonable doubt the evidence of the complainant that the sexual intercourse occurred without her consent".
He said the appellant's version of events, including the 40-minute chat, was "positively implausible".
"There was no adequate explanation of why matters 'got real awkward' or why a fully aroused 17-year-old boy who had been engaging in mutual masturbation would cease intercourse after 10 seconds with a young woman who, on his version, was fully consenting," he said.
In February this year, the teenager's lawyers launched an appeal based on five grounds.
These included the argument that the trial judge simply preferred the complainant's evidence and did not apply the onus on the prosecution to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.
Further, they argue that the judge made a stereotyped assumption about 17-year-old boys' abilities to control their sexual urges, leading to his rejection of the appellant's evidence about consent.
In particular, they said Justice Mossop came "perilously close to reversing the onus of proof" when he said there was "no adequate explanation" about why appellant would have stopped intercourse.
They said his rejection of the appellant's evidence about consent should not have led to rejection of his other evidence, some of which was corroborated.
On Friday, the ACT Court of Appeal upheld the appeal 2-1 with Chief Justice Helen Murrell dismissing it while Justices Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson and Natalie Charlesworth allowed it.
Justice Loukas-Karlsson said the evidence could not support the guilty verdicts.
She said reasonable doubt arose from three issues: what the complainant told the appellant's mother about the alleged offending, the appellant's evidence and the evidence about the complainant's false forensic report.
"The trial judge's rejection of the appellant's evidence was the implausibility of his evidence. In my view, the appellant's evidence should not have been rejected on that basis," she said.
The judge said that while she was not persuaded that Justice Mossop stereotyped the appellant, an assumption was made "in reasoning to the conclusion of positive implausibility".
Justice Loukas-Karlsson said the complainant's plan to produce a false forensic report undermined the reliability and credibility of some of her evidence.
"It is important that the onus and standard of proof is not reversed," she said.
Chief Justice Murrell said "there is no real possibility that an innocent person has been convicted" and that the verdicts were well open to the trial judge.
"The complainant provided a consistent and detailed account of events," she said.
"She readily conceded matters that were potentially damaging to her credit.
"The sequence of events as recounted by the complainant accorded with logic and common sense."
Following the decision, the teenager's father let out a sigh of relief before they hugged each other.
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