Yachtie accused of Qld rapes granted three re-trials

RAPE recollections from nannies allegedly assaulted on a yacht off the Queensland coast could have been reconstructed after a "sensational newspaper article", the state's highest court has suggested.

John Collins, 74, was convicted after trial of sexually assaulting seven women, raping six of them, on his yacht, the Pan Pacific, off the Queensland coast between the Whitsundays and the Gold Coast from 1986 to 2000.

He was ordered to serve 80% of a 20-year jail term.

The Queensland Court of Appeal on Friday granted three re-trials after finding some of the alleged victims should have given their evidence separately, not all together.

Collins would place newspaper advertisements asking for the women to fill a nanny position, looking after his young son.

He would then allegedly lure them into his cabin where he raped them at various ports including the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Bundaberg and on a deserted island near Hamilton Island.

Queensland Court of Appeal president Margaret McMurdo said the prosecution case, when considered objectively, was not overwhelming and combining all the alleged victims was likely to prejudice jurors against him.

"The prosecution case portrayed (Collins) as a seedy, older man who took advantage of young, perhaps unworldly, women attracted to the romance of caring for a child whilst sailing on a yacht in tropical or sub-tropical waters," she said.

"But that was not a criminal offence.

"The prosecution case was that he raped and sexually assaulted the complainants.

"Many complaints were not made in a timely fashion and most came to light only after publication of the sensational newspaper article.

"A jury could consider that some complainants' evidence as to lack of consent may have been the result of hindsight and reconstruction after reading the article."

Justice McMurdo said there was an initial impression of striking similarities, and an underlying pattern, between the alleged sexual assaults.

Collins was aged between 47 and 61 while the girls were aged 17 to 24.

He lived on a yacht with his son and advertised for women to work as a nanny.

Justice McMurdo said Collins had sex with a number of the women during that time.

"Many people would disapprove of such a lifestyle, considering it immoral, dissolute and predatory, but the sexual intercourse was not rape or sexual assault unless the prosecution established each charged act was done without each complainant's consent," she said.

"History has recorded and human experience has established that it is not unusual for men of (Collins') age to seek out contact, including sexual contact, with young adult women."

Justice McMurdo said the prosecution sought to emphasise the vulnerable state of the alleged victims, overtones of control, where through force or intimidation, and then engaged in a sexual assault upon them.

"An analysis of the evidence of the complainants, absent the evidence of the stupefying drink, does not support that submission which appears to be an innovative attempt to find some basic common denominator in the quite different experiences related in the evidence of each complainant. It does not bear up to scrutiny," she said.