Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Australia: District Court overturns child sex charges

A MAN had his convictions on child sex charges overturned on appeal today after it was found there were major problems with the alleged victims testimony at trial.

It is rare for a Court of Appeal to enter verdicts of acquittal in cases where the credibility of the complainant is the issue and the matters are usually sent back to trial.

In a District Court trial in Brisbane last year, the man was found guilty of five counts including maintaining a sexual relationship with a child under 12 years, indecent dealing with a child, and attempting to procure a child to commit an indecent act. He was acquitted on a sixth count.

The offences were alleged to have been committed between June 1996 and January 2001 when the man had an off and on relationship with the girl's mother. The girl was aged between eight and 10 years for most of the alleged offences and 12 and 13 for the final alleged offence.

She alleged the man would come into her room, touch her and perform oral sex. The court heard the girl did not make a complaint until she told her mother about nine years later when they were living in Tasmania.

The man, who can't be named for legal reasons, appealed on the grounds the convictions were unreasonable because the girl's testimony was inconsistent and lacked credibility. In an unanimous judgment the Court of Appeal upheld the appeal, set aside the verdicts and entered judgments of acquittal.

Justice Richard Chesterman noted the girl did not complain about the man's alleged conduct until nine years after it commenced and she had been reluctant to complain until pushed by her mother. He said one aspect of her testimony was shown to be wrong, and in two cases she had changed it to improve the prosecution case.

Justice Chesterman said a Court of Appeal should not lightly set aside a jury's verdict. However, he said there was an obligation on the Court to make its own independent assessment of evidence which cast doubt on the credibility of the complainant.

Original report here

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