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Decision On rape Case Imminent

THE long legal battle of ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark will come to a new head tomorrow when a Victorian appeals court decides whether two women have the right to bring a case against him for rapes they allege he committed in the 1970s and 1980s.
The decision will determine whether Mr Clark faces a civil jury in a damages case brought by the women, Joanne McGuinness and Carol Anne Stingel.
The two women were yesterday said to be "nervous and anxious" about the decision in what has become a test case for civil actions involving statutes of limitation and allegations of traumatic and insidious injury.
Mr Clark, who remains on full pay of $257,000 until July, when the last vestiges of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission are wound up by the federal Government, and who will receive severance pay of $70,000, said he had no comment.
The decision will be handed down in the old High Court building in Melbourne.
A final appeal to the High Court in the already drawn-out affair remains a possibility. Mr Clark has said he has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars preventing the case going to trial.
Mr Clark, who denies all allegations against him, has been protesting his innocence since July 2000, when police confiscated his passport and charged him with the rape of Ms McGuinness, a cousin, in 1981 when she was 16. In November 2000, a Warrnambool magistrate found Mr Clark had no case to answer.
But in June 2001 The Age newspaper revealed allegations that Mr Clark had raped four women in the 1970s and 1980s, including Ms McGuinness and Ms Stingel.
In April 2003, Ms Stingel and Ms McGuinness brought a damages case for rape against the embattled Aboriginal leader in the Victorian County Court. Both women were given leave to proceed outside the six-year statute of limitations.
In February 2004, Victorian County Court judge John Hanlon found that Mr Clark led two pack rapes against Ms Stingel. Judge Hanlon said he was satisfied Ms Stingel had been raped six times in 1971 - the first two of which were led by Mr Clark.

the Australian (11-5-2005)
Stuart Rintoul

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