Judge’s fury at child sex case inaction

A LOCAL magistrate has blasted the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for its failure to comply with court orders to progress the historic child sexual abuse case against a defrocked priest.

Magistrate Karen Stafford said it was unacceptable, after the DPP applied for a further adjournment in Armidale Local Court on Wednesday.

“This is the 14th time these matters have been through the court,” she said.

The accused, a 60-year-old former priest who cannot be named for legal reasons, is facing 133 child sex offences dating back to the 1970s and ’80s. The man was first charged by detectives attached to Strike Force Glenroe in October 2012, but is yet to enter a plea to any of the offences. After constant delays in the case, Magistrate Stafford expressed her frustration on Wednesday.

“I find this to be a completely unacceptable situation,” she told the court.

“There is a very strong public interest in the finalisation in some way or another.”

Crown prosecutor Ben Barrack said the DPP had asked for one of the complainants to be re-interviewed, which had held up proceedings.

“My understanding is the director made the request in late March,” he said.

The court was then told some of the charges had still not been finalised.

“This is exactly what happens when the court directions are ignored. It causes major disruptions,” Magistrate Stafford  said.

The accused did not appear in court during the proceedings but has been ordered to front on the next occasion.

“I’m not bending over backwards for the DPP,” Magistrate Stafford said after being told the case report had still not been forwarded to the director.

“I’m still waiting for an explanation.”

The crown has signalled its opposition to defence calls for a hearing, where witnesses could be called to give evidence in court. Magistrate Stafford said she had been asking for a condensed brief of evidence for months without receiving a thing.

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