Coach’s touches may be ‘accidental’: court
Some parents of the girls allegedly abused by swim instructor Kyle Daniels may have been so enraged by the "disgusting" nature of the alleged offences that they would do "anything" to convict him, a jury has heard.
Barrister Leslie Nicholls attacked the prosecution case from multiple directions on Friday as he summed up his defence of Mr Daniels, accused of sexually abusing nine of his young students at Mosman Swim Centre.
Mr Nicholls said evidence from girls and parents had been "contaminated" and heavily criticised the police investigation, enumerating several missteps he said were committed by officers.
He said the officer in charge, Detective Senior Constable Emma Lay, had influenced girls into saying they had been touched in certain places in their police interviews.
"When she doesn't get the word 'vagina' you can see the frustration on her face," he told the jury.
Mr Daniels, 22, is accused of touching the nine girls on, inside, or near their vagina when they were aged between five and 10 and learning to swim at the North Sydney centre.
Mr Daniels has vigorously denied ever deliberately touching the girls and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
His trial has lasted more than six weeks in the NSW District Court.
Mr Nicholls said the way some parents asked their daughters if they had been touched could have influenced their stories.
He said the jury likely thought "disgusting" when they heard the charges against Mr Daniels being read out, and that he understood the visceral reaction a parent might have to allegations of child sexual abuse.
He was "not attacking them personally" when discussing their reactions, he said.
"It's not a quantum leap if it was your child that you would do, like (one mother) said, anything to get him convicted. We could all understand what your motivation was," he said.
"The problem is where it's done towards someone who may have been mistakenly or falsely accused of something, it comes at too high a price."
He accused one father of giving evidence untruthfully by saying he had not discussed his evidence with his wife when he had discussed an email with her.
"It showed another example of where these parents, perhaps given the nature of the offence, feel entitled that they can ignore what a judge tells them about not discussing the evidence, that they can be untruthful when I'm asking questions of them," Mr Nicholls said.
"Why? Because they want him convicted. They are prepared to do things that ordinarily people would not do because of the nature of the offences. And their mistaken belief that he had done something to their daughter."
Mr Nicholls said the crown needed to rule out the possibility any of the touches were inadvertent or accidental.
"Have you all noted that all the allegations occur after June 2018? Why is that significant?" he said.
"Because at that time, that is when Mr Daniels went and got permission to wear his glasses in the pool. Before that, he was wearing contacts."
The barrister quoted a father of one of the nine girls who remembered Mr Daniels because he, unusually, wore glasses in the pool, and the father had too.
The father had said: "It was a nightmare having to wear glasses in the pool … they get splashed and your vision is impaired, and it's a kind of constant battle between do I wear the glasses and keep wiping them or do I keep not being able to see in the water?"
Mr Nicholls suggested this may have impeded Mr Daniels's teaching.
"If his glasses are fogged up, if he's got water on them, is he really going to be able to know - with such precision as being put to him by the crown - where things go?" Mr Nicholls asked. "In general, yes."
Mr Nicholls also said there was no evidence that Mr Daniels was grooming the children, watching for their reaction or becoming sexually aroused by the touches.
"We're talking about one or two seconds," he said.
"Look at your watch, the second hand going around. That is the time complained about of the touching. But yet he's supposed to get sexual pleasure out of it."
Mr Nicholls said he was not asking the jury to criticise the young girls or to find they lied but rather to consider "the quality of evidence".
"And whether that quality reaches the very high standard that is required under criminal law," he said.
He took aim at Constable Lay, suggesting she was prepared "from the very first minute" to act inappropriately to aid the investigation.
At one point he said: "The evidence given by Detective (Lay) was a blatant attempt to cover up her own actions."
He described one parent as "clearly motivated by bias" against Mr Daniels and two others as "simply dishonest and untruthful" in their evidence.
Prosecutor Karl Prince told the jury on Thursday that criticisms of Constable Lay ultimately did not add up to much.
"Nine complainants … 23 incidents … over a 13 month period," Mr Prince said.
"Whatever Detective Lay has done, she hasn't manufactured that."
Mr Nicholls reminded the jury on Friday that Mr Daniels was innocent until proven guilty.
"If you find yourself thinking things like, there's nine complainants, there's 26 charges, he must have done something - you're ignoring the presumption of innocence," he told the jury.
"It is so critical. If you don't (presume innocence), the system fails."
Judge Kara Shead will begin her summing up of the case on Monday.
The jury has previously advised via a note that at least one of them had travel plans from December 18.
Judge Shead advised the 12 jurors they could sit extended hours next week for their deliberations if they wish to.
The trial continues.
Originally published as Coach's touches may be 'accidental': court