Allegations of Abuse in Institutions

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Index 2006

October 26 2006

Former Salvation Army Man takes stand

The former Salvation Army officer accused of sex charges against children at Timaru's Bramwell Booth Children's Home 30 years ago, continued to deny the allegations when he gave evidence in the High Court at Timaru on Wednesday.

On the seventh day of his trial John Francis Gainsford, 69, retired, of Auckland, continued to strongly deny all but four of the 27 charges involving eight complainants. He also denied many of the incidents the court has heard about in recent days, had even occurred.

Gainsford's counsel, Paul Dacre, told the jury the accused had behaved badly toward some of the children and he acknowledged that with the four guilty pleas (to three charges of indecent assault on a girl aged under 12 and a charge of inducing a girl then aged 12 to do an indecent act on him).

Gainsford's responses to all the remaining 23 indecency and rape charges were all similar, stating simply "no" when asked if he could recall the incident, or stating "it did not" (happen).

The last crown witness told the court that as a teenage boy he ran into the staff lounge one night to find Gainsford sitting in the dark with his trousers down, and his hand between the legs of a young girl who was sitting with her legs spread across his crotch area.

The man told of playing chase with another boy that night, and the pair running into a staff lounge which was out of bounds to the children. Light from the hallway shone into the dark room and he could see Gainsford and the girl. The child's dress was pulled up around her waist.

Told by Mr Dacre that Gainsford could not recall the incident, the witness replied it had happened, it was a matter of fact, and both boys had seen it.

Later, under cross examination, Gainsford admitted that while he did not recall the incident, he accepted the man's evidence was "factually based".

Asked by Tim Gresson (for the Crown) whether all the complainants and witnesses were either mistaken or had given false evidence, Gainsford said he could only assume they were mistaken, but he did not believe they had deliberately lied.

Gainsford denied the sexual abuse had been much more extensive and he was simply in denial.

"I am quite positive it is not. It is firmly imprinted on my mind, I had to answer to the Salvation Army and the Department of Social Welfare."

To Mr Gresson's suggestion that Gainsford had a problem with self control when it came to little children, Gainsford replied he had never had a problem with little boys, but for a brief period of time he did have a problem with four little girls (of whom three were complainants in the trial).

"I felt devastated when I read about it (read their statements), ashamed about it."

Gainsford suggested the complainants' memories may have hung on to things they imagined at the time and were now remembering as reality.

The trial before Justice Fogarty and a jury of three men and nine women continues today.