Former scout leader James Morris, also known as Ian Phipps, has denied 17 charges of doing indecent acts on six boys over a period of 40 years.

Published in Stuff

A witness has told a court that his Scout leader sexually abused him in the back of a darkened cinema where The Rocky Horror Picture Show was playing, over forty years ago.

The man, whose identity is protected, said he attended the First Mt Albert St Jude’s Scout Group in the 1970s as an 11-year-old where he met James Morris.

Morris, also known as Ian Phipps has denied 17 charges of doing indecent acts on six boys under the age of 16.

The witness told the Manukau District Court that his mother often dropped him off and picked him up at Scouts.

But a few times Morris, who was a scout leader, also dropped him home, the court heard.

It was on one of these occasions, the witness said, that Morris took a detour and drove him to the Hollywood Cinema in Avondale where he worked as a projectionist.

The witness recalled walking into the back of the darkened cinema where The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a musical comedy horror film released in 1975, was playing.

He said Morris sexually abused him before taking him home.

On another occasion, about a month later, Morris picked him up from his home and again took him to the cinema for a matinee show.

This time the witness said Morris took him up to the projectioner’s booth and again sexually abused him. During the incident, an adult came to the door of the booth and spoke to Morris, the witness said.

“He was quite normal, as if nothing was going on.”

When the adult left, Morris continued the abuse, the court heard.

The Crown prosecutor Tiffany Cooper asked the witness why he didn’t tell anyone of the abuse at the time.

He answered: “I suppose I thought: ‘This can’t be right but what can I do about it? Nothing’.”

Eventually he told his wife and some years later decided to also report it to the police.

“I think I kind of thought: ‘It’s been in the back of my mind … I needed to do something about it’. I didn’t want this person to get away with it or do it to someone else… I also wanted some closure for myself.”

Under cross-examination from Morris’ lawyer, Jonathan Hudson, the witness denied making the story up.

“That’s a bare-faced lie,” the witness said. “I’m not going to come to court and make up a story. Why would I put myself through that.”

He confirmed he had asked the police about financial compensation when he first approached them but that was to cover his travel expenses and time at court.

The witness also spoke about a reluctance to come forward earlier on account of his mother’s feelings.

“I just think at her age, to find out something like that had happened to your child, you’d be devastated. It would be heartbreaking.”

The Crown case

Earlier, the jurors heard Cooper open the case for the Crown.

She said some of the alleged offending happened at Morris’s workplace in the projectionist’s room.

He also abused boys at his home in Mangere, a Denny’s Restaurant and inside his car, it was alleged.

She said the second complainant also met Morris at Scouts, this time in Northcross, on Auckland’s North Shore.

Cooper said Morris drove the boy home but pulled his car over on the way.

He then allegedly sexually abused the boy, then aged between 11 and 13. The abuse continued and Morris again made use of the projectionist’s room at the Hollywood Cinema, the court heard.

Another boy, aged between 14 and 15 in the late 70s, will tell the court how Morris took him to a projectionist room inside a cinema on Auckland’s Queen St.

Cooper said after showing the boy some of the cinema’s equipment, Morris sexually abused him.

Cooper said some 20 years later Morris continued to prey on young boys.

In the 90s, while working at Cine Cinema in Manurewa, Morris met a boy living on the street.

Morris took him to restaurants and let him sleep at his house, Cooper said.

On one occasion, when the boy was aged between 13 and 14, the pair went to a Denny’s restaurant where they caught the attention of other diners, the court heard.

“Mr Morris was seen to be rubbing [the boy’s] inner thigh and putting his hand through his hair in what was seen as an over-familiar way.”

Two of the patrons confronted Morris but Morris rejected the suggestion that anything inappropriate had gone on, the court heard.

The matter was referred to the police but the boy did not make a complaint at the time.

Cooper said Morris befriended another boy who he took to his house in Mangere East and sexually abused.

The last of the six complainants was just 10 years-old when he met Morris, it was said.

He would go over to Morris’ home after school some days and Morris bought him lollies and watched cartoons with him, the court heard.

Cooper said the allegations are only a couple of years old.

The boy told the police that Morris would touch him, she said.

On one occasion the boy told Morris he urgently needed to use the loo, and then climbed out of a bedroom window and ran home, the court heard.

Cooper told the jurors that they would also hear details of Morris’ previous offending against two boys, one in 1989 and the other from the mid-90s.

Morris’ lawyer Jonathan Hudson made a short opening statement and encouraged the jurors to keep an open mind.

“He’s not here to prove his innocence to you. It is for the Crown to prove the charges.”

The trial, before Judge Soana Moala and a jury, is due to hear from 23 Crown witnesses and is set down for three weeks.

WHERE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE CAN GET HELP

Rape Crisis – 0800 88 33 00 (Will direct you to a nearby centre), follow link for information on local helplines

Victim Support – 0800 842 846 (24hr service)

The Harbour, online support and information for those affected by harmful sexual behaviour

Women’s Refuge (For women and children) – crisis line available on 0800 733 843

Safe to talk – 0800 044 334, text 4334 or web chat

Male Survivors Aotearoa (For men) – follow link for regional helplines.

By Edward Gay
Published in Stuff
29 January 2020