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Rape convictions quashed

Two young men jailed for the rape of a female former friend have been released on bail after they were granted a retrial by the state’s appeal court.

The Court of Appeal last week quashed the rape convictions of Luke Merryfull and Shaun Bloomfield and ordered they stand trial for a second time.

In April last year, a jury found Merryfull and Bloomfield guilty of raping the woman after a 21st party at Balmoral in April 2016.

The men have claimed the woman gave consent before they had sex with her inside a caravan they stayed in after the birthday celebrations.

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Prosecutors told the jury the woman had rejected Merryfull and Bloomfield’s proposition of a threesome and had fallen asleep before the men both had sex with her.

The case caused bitter division among Balmoral’s small population of about 200, some of whom provided glowing character references for Bloomfield and Merryfull during sentencing submissions in 2019.

Bloomfield was jailed for five years and eight months, with a non-parole period of three years and four months.

Merryfull received a head sentence of four years and 10 months and was ordered to serve at least two years and 10 months.

The appeal court granted the retrial after hearing of fresh evidence from a Balmoral resident who had provided a statement about a conversation they had with the alleged victim about the incident.

The court has heard there was no dispute the sexual acts took place and the key issue was if the woman had given consent.

The court agreed with defence submissions that the witness’ statement had the potential to have influenced the original jury’s deliberations and verdicts if it had been heard in evidence.

The accused men were released from prison on bail ahead of the retrial, which has not yet been scheduled for hearing.

Merryfull and Bloomfield’s bail conditions include they live at nominated addresses and have no contact with the alleged victim or her family.

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