Accused driver for gang rape wins appeal

The Queensland Court of Appeal has acquitted one of four men previously found guilty over the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in a cane field north of Cairns.

Jeffrey Tibau Banu, now aged 42, was one of four cousins charged after a girl was raped multiple times while in the boot of a car that had been driven to a sugar cane field at Machans Beach.

The girl had been drinking at a house at Yorkeys Knob on December 28, 2017 when she passed out and woke up in the car while being raped by Aaron Anau.

Anau, now aged 38, had also appealed his convictions on one count of rape as a principal offender and three counts of rape as a party, but discontinued his case before December last year.

All four men were convicted in 2021 after being granted a retrial on appeal the year before.

Mr Banu was convicted of three counts of being a party to rape having been accused of deliberately using his car to drive the girl and the other appellants to the field to assaulting her. He was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment.

The Court of Appeal published its reasons for upholding the appeal on Thursday having reached a decision last year to set Mr Banu's convictions aside and enter verdicts of acquittal on the charges he was convicted of in 2021.

Mr Banu appealed his convictions on the claim there was no evidence as to his intention in driving to the cane field, or that he knew the offending would occur.

Justice Jean Dalton found there were "difficulties" with the evidence against Mr Banu, including a statement taken from the victim 15 months after the fact, and it was significant that he had not been charged with personally taking part in rape.

"Having driven the men and the (victim) to the cane field, I cannot see that (Mr Banu's) driving them back to Cairns adds anything to the case against him," Justice Dalton stated.

The court dismissed appeals by two other men, Francis Peter, 38, and Tom Banu Ingui, 48, who were both convicted of one count of rape as a principal offender and two counts of rape as a party.

Peter and Ingui were previously sentenced to at least 10 years' imprisonment, as was Anau.