11 October 2023

Jury discharged in trial of man accused of abusing two sisters in 2010s

| Albert McKnight
law court

A 30-year-old had fought his charges at a trial in the ACT Supreme Court. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to alleged indecent assaults.

Jurors in the trial of a man accused of molesting two sisters when they were young have been discharged after they could not agree on verdicts.

The trial of the 30-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, began in the ACT Supreme Court last month before closing addresses were held last week.

He was accused of committing sexual offences against two sisters in the 2010s when the younger was aged six or seven and the older was between 14 and 17.

Jurors began deliberating around midday on Monday (9 October) before returning to the courtroom around 4:30 pm on Tuesday (10 October) where they were discharged by Chief Justice Lucy McCallum due to an inability to agree and other information that had been received by the court.

The case against the man was adjourned to a directions list later in October.

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Jurors heard it alleged that the younger sister was about six or seven when the man, a friend of the family, kissed her body on two occasions.

On the first, it is also alleged he sat her on his lap, touched her body and indecently assaulted her.

The man is also alleged to have abused the older sister on several occasions when she was aged between 14 and 17.

It is alleged he kissed her or touched her body after pulling her onto his lap and pushing her down onto a bed.

The main issue in the trial was whether the alleged acts happened, Chief Justice McCallum told jurors during her summary of the case on Monday.

She also said the man’s legal team had argued that jurors could not be satisfied that the younger sister was under the age of 10 when the alleged offences occurred, which was required by all charges related to her allegations.

The prosecution claimed she was aged six or seven at the time, but the defence had noted how she had written in her journal that she had been in early childhood or junior school when the allegations occurred.

The chief justice said this could have put the allegations from as late as Year 5.

During the closing addresses, defence barrister Keegan Lee had claimed there were “obvious issues” with the younger sister’s memory.

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He said his client admitted there were occasions when the girl sat on his lap, but “he was frank about that because he has nothing to hide”.

Mr Lee also said some people said to have been nearby to some of the alleged incidents against the older sister had told the court they hadn’t seen anything.

The prosecution had argued discrepancies between the sisters would be unsurprising and gave them an air of credibility, pointing out that their memories were based on significant alleged events.

The man pleaded not guilty to three counts of committing an act of indecency on a young person over the allegations regarding the younger sister.

He had also pleaded not guilty to four counts of committing an act of indecency without consent and one count each of sexual assault in the third degree and committing an act of indecency on a young person over the older sister’s allegations.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact 1800RESPECT, the national domestic and sexual violence support service, on 1800 737 732.

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