No bail for man on sex charges

AN ARMIDALE man behind bars accused of sexually attacking a female stranger has again been refused bail after investigators allegedly heard him making plans to flee the state.

Armidale Local Court was yesterday told Harley Jones was allegedly heard on a recorded phone conversation from prison, telling his mother he intended to leave NSW as soon as he was released.

The 20-year-old has been in custody since the alleged sexual assault in Brown St, Armidale on January 19 after he was charged with aggravated sexual assault inflicting actual bodily harm.

Despite facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted, Jones lodged a fresh bid for release yesterday before the court was told he was a flight risk.

Officer-in-charge of the case, Detective Senior Constable Mark Rogers, was called to give evidence from the stand after he allegedly heard the taped conversation “probably about two months ago.”

“Harley has indicated to his mother that he intends to leave NSW,” he told the court.

“Words of leaving NSW or the state, I don’t know the exact words.”

Defence solicitor Patrick Kennedy said because the word bail wasn’t mentioned in the call, it was open to interpretation about whether he was referring to when he was eventually released from custody after the case had been decided.

But Crown prosecutor Ben Barrack said Jones was a clear flight risk, arguing there was a strong inference the charges would not be withdrawn, so the statement “must be in relation to when he’s release from custody on bail.”

Jones is yet to enter a plea but Mr Barrack said a full brief of evidence ready to go.

“It’s a strong Crown case,” he said.

“There is CCTV footage that identifies the accused.”

The DPP opposed bail, adding three unacceptable risks had been identified including failing to appear.

“There are a number of witnesses who are members of his family or friends,” he said.

“A further serious offence could be committed.”

Mr Barrack said it was a “particularly violent” and “random attack on a young woman in a dark street”.

The defence submitted Jones could report to police, remain under house arrest unless accompanied by a member of his family and not contact any Crown witness, mitigating the risks, further adding the “DNA doesn’t assist anybody” in the brief of evidence.

In determining bail, Magistrate Karen Stafford said it was an “extremely serious offence” of a “sexual and violent nature ... against a stranger.”

“Circumstantial only ... my view is a strong circumstantial case,” she said, pointing to CCTV footage, statements from Jones’ associates and the discovery of clothing matching descriptions provided.

Ms Stafford said none of the proposed conditions were “going to mitigate the risks” and consequently bail had to be refused.

The case has been adjourned to next month.

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