A swim coach allegedly carried out sex abuse against nine girls on 23 occasions ‘underwater’ when no one could see over 13 months, a court has heard.
A jury has been urged to set aside criticisms of the police investigation and look at the “bigger picture” in the high profile case of swim teacher Kyle Daniels, accused of sexually abusing his young students.
Mr Daniels, 22, has emphatically denied touching the girls and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prosecutor Karl Prince said the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Senior Constable Emma Lay, would likely be “put under the microscope” by Mr Daniels’ barrister.
But he told the jurors to ask themselves what difference her conduct actually made.
“Nine complainants. 23 incidents. Over a 13 month period,” Mr Prince told the eight men and four women.
“Whatever Detective Lay has done, she hasn’t manufactured that.”
The girls were aged between five and 10 when the prosecution alleges they were touched by instructor Kyle Daniels on, in, or near their vagina at Mosman Swim Centre between February 2018 and February 2019.
Mr Prince delivered his final address to the jury on Thursday, following six weeks of evidence in the NSW District Court.
The Crown case is that Mr Daniels touched the girls deliberately — not by accident, or due to poor teaching technique — and that he did it out of a sexual interest in young girls. Mr Daniels denied this when it was put to him in cross-examination.
“When you first thought about the location of these alleged offences and the fact they’re said to occur in a busy swim centre you might have wondered to yourself how this could have happened,” Mr Prince said.
“Despite the presence of CCTV cameras, staff walking around on the pool deck, parents sitting on the side, no one could see what was going on under the water.”
He said there was “no coincidence” in the similar stories told by the nine girls, and that the only explanation for them having come forward is that they are telling the truth.
Mr Prince said he expects Mr Daniels’ barrister Leslie Nicholls to make a number of criticisms of the police investigation in his closing address.
Among them is a change from the word “bottom” to “vagina” in a mother’s statement, which Mr Prince said was signed off by the mother in question, who did not see it as significant.
He said the fact Mr Daniels’ arrest was recorded by the NSW Police Media Unit was standard practice, even if jurors may find it “unsavoury” or “unfair”.
And he said Constable Lay’s interviews, while probably “not perfect”, broadly aligned with the best practices set out by an expert.
He asked the jurors to consider what difference any of this made to the evidence offered by the nine girls, who he said should be considered reliable and truthful witnesses.
He said Mr Daniels himself had testified that touching the groin area is an “absolute no go zone” for swimming instructors.
“Yet nine little girls have come along and said he did just that,” he said.
Mr Prince told the jury that if they placed each girl “under a microscope” they would find inconsistencies in all of their stories.
One said Mr Daniels was wearing glasses in a photo displayed in the swim centre lobby, but he wasn’t, Mr Prince said.
Another girl said she was doing a particular stroke when she was touched, but it wouldn‘t have been taught in the level she was in.
And another said she had more lessons with Mr Daniels than the swim centre records revealed.
“But what to make of these inconsistencies, whether they are significant in this trial, is a matter for you 12 alone,“ Mr Prince told the jury.
He reminded them of evidence from two experts who testified on child sexual abuse and memory.
Dr Susan Pulman said both children and adults can be inconsistent in their accounts, and that errors tend to be about peripheral information, not the event itself, Mr Prince said.
He read out part of a report from Professor Jane Goodman-Delahunty: “Not every inaccuracy or inconsistency indicates a false complaint … their absence rather than their presence should trigger concern.”
Mr Prince spoke about one girl who had demonstrated where she was allegedly held using a plush toy frog in her police interview.
He urged the jury to “think of the position (she) was in” when considering if there were inconsistencies between her demonstration with the frog and what she actually told police.
“When she’s in a swimming lesson … do you expect her to be able to see where the accused’s hands are?” he asked.
“You might expect all she can do is feel a particular touch. Feel where his hands are. What does she feel? She feels a push on her vagina. Four times.”
He also invited the jury to cast scepticism on Mr Daniels’ claim that one girl — the one whose complaint ultimately led to his arrest — was memorable because she was “troublesome” and “unnecessarily argumentative” in class.
She showed no traces of such traits in her recorded interview and evidence, he said.
Mr Nicholls will deliver his closing address tomorrow.
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