Guilty findings against a Victorian teacher who molested a teenage boy she claimed to have been in love with during the 1980s made “no sense”, her lawyer has told an appeal hearing.
Kathryn Joy Woods was convicted by a County Court jury in August last year on one charge each of indecent assault and gross indecency with a person under 16.
But her lawyer, Colin Mandy SC, told the Court of Appeal on Thursday her acquittals on 12 related charges showed the jury must have had doubt about the credibility of her accuser.
Mr Mandy said it followed that it made “no sense” for the jury to find Woods guilty on some charges, but not others, if it had reasonable doubt the complainant was lying, wrong or mistaken.
“If they’ve got reasonable doubt about whether the complainant is telling the truth … that doubt about his credibility must carry through to the other counts,” he told the court.
“Their conviction on these two counts makes no sense in that context.”
However, prosecutor Jeremy McWilliams defended the guilty findings as “entirely rational and entirely logical”.
Mr McWilliams said the jury was active and took its task seriously, asking thoughtful questions to clarify evidence and their task during the trial.
“(It’s) not a jury that has betrayed its oath, but one that has performed their task entirely consistent with it,” he said.
Mr McWilliams said Woods’ convictions on some charges but not others did not mean the jury rejected the complainant’s account of what happened.
“It’s not a conclusion he’s a liar. It’s not a conclusion he’s a fantasist,” he said.
Woods was cleared of one charge of sexual penetration of a child aged 10 to 16, five charges of gross indecency and six of indecent assault.
The County Court was told Woods was 24 when she thought she fell in love with a 14-year-old boy left in her care.
The relationship started out like mother and son, but evolved to a point where Woods thought of the child as a “boyfriend”.
Woods had previously been the boy’s teacher before privately tutoring him, and then caring for him when his parents were away.
The pair exchanged countless love letters during 1984, but Woods insisted the pair should “not step over the line”.
But in August that year, Woods “exceeded the boundaries”, molesting the teenager.
She was arrested in 2017 after the victim had a “breakdown” and told his father what happened.
She was sentenced in December but avoided jail, instead receiving a two-year community corrections order with 200 hours of community work.
The appeal judges have reserved their decision.