Evidence given against an elderly man accused of molesting children while working as Santa Claus was tainted because he was prejudged as a pedophile, an Adelaide jury has been told.
“I am saying you have honestly mistaken witnesses infected with prejudgment on the basis of what they heard,” Heath Barklay said in the defence closing address.
William John Graham Webster, 77, has pleaded not guilty in South Australia’s District Court to five counts of aggravated indecent assault of girls aged between five and 12 in December 2012.
He is accused of touching their genital areas or bottoms or both, over their clothes, when he worked as Santa in an Adelaide shopping centre and at a community event.
Mr Barklay said the allegations were reported in the media after one mother went to police, which led to others coming forward after forming the view that the man was a pedophile.
“Some of the witnesses heard a news report or were told it and concluded it was true,” he said.
Prosecutor Melissa Wilkinson said Webster “took gross advantage of his socially sanctioned and very unique interactions with children”.
She alleged that despite families being present and photos taken, Webster took the brazen risk that they would not want to spoil the magic of Santa for their children by making a complaint in front of them.
He preyed on the mother’s natural reluctance to suspect that someone playing Santa would do such a thing, Ms Wilkinson added.
But Mr Barklay said: “Do you really think you can bank on a parent not doing anything while you fiddle with their child … right in front of them?
“No beard, no red suit is going to prevent a parent from interfering in those circumstances.”
The jury will retire after Judge Wayne Chivell completes his summing up, which he began on Friday.