Church leader appeals 11-year prison sentence for raping choir girls8th April 2021
A Queensland church leader convicted of raping and indecently assaulting two choir girls has appealed the 11-year jail term he was handed 18 months ago.
Shartiel Nibigira, a father-of-eight who fled from the war-torn African country of Burundi and came to Australia in 2007, was found guilty on 21 charges in the Brisbane District Court in December 2019.
The charges stemmed from complaints made by two young girls, who were members of the same church in the Ipswich area of which Nibigira was the leader.
Nibigira lived in poverty before fleeing Burundi in 1997 to seek refuge in Tanzania. His parents and siblings were killed during the escape.
The Court of Appeal heard on Thursday that Nibigira was responsible for taking the children in the youth choir to and from the church.
Barrister Peter Richards, representing Nibigira on behalf of Legal Aid, said the grounds for appeal were the jury “acted irrationally … about the penetration of [one of] the victim’s vagina by finger or fingers” and there was “inconsistent evidence of the penetration” occurring.
Mr Richards also raised concerns regarding the “green car” in which some of the offences allegedly occurred, saying the car’s owner testified during the 2019 trial he never lent his car to Nibigira.
Regarding Mr Richards’ penetration argument, the transcript from the 2019 trial was reviewed and found the victim admitted that Nibigira did not digitally penetrate her, but rather “just kept going around and around” so the jury was aware of this fact when it decided to convict.
Crown prosecutor David Nardone said the detail the victim went into during her testimony meant the jury “would have been left in no doubt as to the events described”.