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Australia'I kept repeating I did nothing wrong': man's child sex abuse conviction quashed

01:55  24 may  2019
01:55  24 may  2019 Source:   watoday.com.au

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'I kept repeating I did nothing wrong': man's child sex abuse conviction quashed© Karleen Minney The man took his appeal all the way to the High Court and won.

A man has broken his silence after he spent 15 months in jail for a crime and a conviction that was ultimately quashed by the High Court last month.

In a recent major ruling the High Court quashed the man's conviction for historic child sex offences that he maintains never happened.

The High Court decision also overruled the Western Australian Court of Appeal, which had previously dismissed the man's appeal against his conviction.

His ordeal finally came to an end this week when the Director of Public Prosecutions decided to drop the case entirely.

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The man, whose name was suppressed in the High Court judgement, and his partner of 16 years, who has stuck by him throughout the ordeal, spoke publicly for the first time on Thursday after the case was officially dropped in the WA District Court, and his innocence validated.

'I kept repeating I did nothing wrong': man's child sex abuse conviction quashed© File/iStock The man spent 15 months in prison.

"From day dot I kept repeating I did nothing wrong," the man said.

'I kept repeating I did nothing wrong': man's child sex abuse conviction quashed
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"I stuck to my guns (as did) all those people that stuck by me and believed me."

The man was charged several years ago with four counts of indecently dealing with a child under 13.

He pleaded not guilty and stood trial in 2016, nearly 20 years after the alleged offences were said to have taken place.

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The alleged complainant gave evidence during the trial, but during her evidence she admitted telling some lies.

The prosecution case was heavily dependent on her credibility.

At the end of the trial the Judge directed members of the jury "not follow a process of reasoning" that just because the complainant was shown to have told a lie, that all of her evidence was dishonest and could not be relied upon.

The man was found guilty of one charge and not guilty of one other. The two other charges had earlier been withdrawn from the jury.

He was sentenced to 30 months in prison, and served 15, spending most of his time in Acacia prison.

"I was sour, I was angry," the man said. "When you get in there, you are not human in that place.

"I found it very strange and degrading."

The man and his new lawyers – Sam Vandongen and Shash Nigam – appealed his conviction in the WA Court of Appeal largely on the basis there was no established legal basis for the "impugned direction" to be given by the trial Judge.

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But the appeal was dismissed.

They then took the appeal all the way to the High Court in Canberra, which set aside the Court of Appeal's decision, quashed the man's conviction and ordered a new trial.

However, there will be no need for a new trial after the DPP filed a discontinuance notice in the District Court.

The High Court ruled it was open to the jury to find the complainant's lies "precluded acceptance of her evidence of the commission of the offences beyond reasonable doubt".

"It was that process of reasoning which the impugned direction took away," the ruling said, adding: "The misdirection cannot therefore have been one which had no effect upon the jury, acting reasonably, in its verdict. Conviction was not inevitable."

The man's partner said the High Court ruling made them feel "wonderful".

"We didn't need a plane to get back here (to WA) we flew back ourselves, that's how high we were feeling," she said. "It was just wonderful.

"He was that determined to prove his innocence he said 'if I have to spend every last cent I will, and I will go back to work'.

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"(But) he hasn't been able to work, because he has had this hanging over his head."

Mr Nigam said the High Court judgment was very important to his client, and also a very important legal precedent.

"You need a huge amount of heart together with the financial resources to go all the way to the High Court. Thankfully for him, he had both," Mr Nigam said.

"I’m very pleased that we were able to help him and it is a big win for him, but it certainly takes its toll on not only the client, but also those closest to them."

The man is now in the process of considering his legal options.

After the man's conviction he was also put on the sex offender's register, but has since been removed from it. His passport – which had been cancelled – has also been reinstated.

Asked if he felt a sense of freedom, the man replied: "I understand what it means now. I can go out the back and look at the stars. It is unbelievable."

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It will be broadcast on the Supreme Court of Victoria’s website, and accessible around the world. © AAP Cardinal George Pell. Pell is appealing his conviction for sexually abusing two Melbourne choirboys in the 1990s. If the conviction is upheld he won’t seek a reduced sentence. He has been behind bars since February, and was handed a six-year prison sentence by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd in March.

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