New Zealand Adventist Receives Prison Sentence for Sex Crimes
2 July 2018 | New Zealand’s Stuff news site reported that Teina Toru, an Adventist was handed a 12 years and nine month prison sentence at the High Court in the city of New Plymouth, New Zealand on Friday. He was found guilty of rape and abuse despite claiming to be innocent of 15 charges including two of rape, two of kidnapping, three of assault with intent to injure and one of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Toru was sentenced by Justice Robert Dobson in the High Court at New Plymouth on Friday. Dobson found Toru guilty of all counts.
Stuff had reported that Teina Toru met the victim, a former Jehovah’s Witness, on a religious dating site.
Prosecutors accused Toru of “violent and sexual offending,” including verbal attacks on the victim’s religion. The crimes were said to have taken place in July of last year in New Plymouth, a city on New Zealand’s west coast.
The victim initially refused to testify in court claiming it was against her religious beliefs to “take her brothers or sisters to court.”
She relented after being warned of legal consequences for not testifying. She said that after meeting online and bonding over religious belief, the two lived together at a number of addresses. She said that her background as a former Jehovah’s Witness led to many “passionate arguments.”
The woman also described Toru as a “preacher” who often offered religious guidance and encouragement to others.
She said that soon before some of the abuse took place, Toru had been offering counsel to another woman online causing the victim to feel insecure.
Asked by the prosecution if Toru had then tripped her and caused her to hit her head on an armchair, the woman said, “he didn’t mean to.” She also answered many questions claiming she did not remember and when pressed on alleged sexual abuse she reversed prior testimony to police saying Toru did not sexually abuse her.
The prosecution was allowed to play her police statement in which she described the alleged rapes in graphic detail. In the tapes she said “He was saying he was the man of the house and I was to submit to him and not speak.” She also added that the attacks had left her feeling like a sex object and called Toru “crazy and sick.”
According to the Adventist Denomination’s Office of Archives, Statistics and Research, the New Zealand Pacific Union of the denomination has 20,090 members and 144 churches.
A previous version of this article described Toru as a “practicing Adventist.” It has been edited based on the following information from the Adventist Media offices in Wahroonga, Australia:
Please note, Teina Toru is not a “practising Adventist” as stated in the report. Toru has not attended an Adventist church for some time. While described as a “preacher”, Toru has never held this position. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in NZ is in the process of disfellowshipping him.