Armidale jury deliberating charges of school staffer accused of sexual intercourse with male students at New England school

Trial continues: The jury is considering the verdicts on 12 charges in Armidale District Court. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Trial continues: The jury is considering the verdicts on 12 charges in Armidale District Court. Photo: Gareth Gardner

A JURY will resume deliberations on Wednesday morning to determine whether or not a school staff member sexually assaulted students at a New England school.

The 12-member jury panel retired to consider their verdicts on several charges on Tuesday morning following the summing up of the case by Judge Jennifer English on Monday.

The 23-year-old accused cannot be identified after an extensive suppression order was placed on the trial, which started three-and-a-half weeks ago.

The woman has pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 17 under care, two counts of aggravated sexual intercourse with a child under 16, and six counts of sexual intercourse with a child under care aged between 17 and 18.

The name, location and type of school has been suppressed by the court with an extensive non-publication order placed on much of the details surrounding the case, to protect the alleged victims, who were students at the school at the time of the alleged offending.

The woman was not employed as a teacher but was a member of staff, and in his closing address, crown prosecutor Max Pincott said the accused asked all of the students to delete any Facebook or text correspondence.

“The crown says the evidence is very clear that her role had clear influence over the boys,” he said.

“The crown says she has considerable power over these boys, they were under her special care.”

Mr Pincott said there were more than 1000 messages to one student, and the jury should reject what the accused said.

“The crown’s case is that the accused had a sexual interest in these boys and she used her position, a position of authority, there's no doubt about that, to take advantage of these boys,” he said.

Defence barrister Gregory Heathcote submitted the accused had been threatened and was “really a victim in this case”. “She did tell us about some verbal and physical threats but when she resisted it was ignored,” he said in his closing address.

“She's not perfect, she's made mistakes, she knows that.

“She thought she was guilty, she really did. She blamed herself and was digging a hole for herself.” He said there was a “consistency of lying by the witnesses” and the accused was scared, “she wanted to keep these people happy so they didn't dob”.

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