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Pedophile Accused's Back Pain Stops Case

NINETY sexual assault charges against a 72-year-old man have been withdrawn by the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions because the accused has back problems that would mean the court could only sit for an hour a day.
The pensioner, from the Newcastle area, was due to face trial in the Newcastle District Court next Monday, but police and some of the alleged victims have been told the DPP will file a "no bill".
Although the DPP refused to explain why the prosecution case would be withdrawn, The Australian understands it is for practical reasons because the trial judge has ruled that the court would only sit for an hour each day.
This ruling was granted by judge Ralph Coolahan in May, after lawyers for the accused argued that because of health difficulties, including back problems, their client could not sit for longer than one hour.
During the hearing, the judge mentioned that the trial could be a waste of resources, but the prosecution decided to accept the special conditions.
However, it is expected that at a hearing on Monday, Crown prosecutors will enter a no bill before Judge Coolahan.
The pensioner, who lived on a property with a makeshift speedway, was charged in August 2002 with committing sexual acts on seven boys aged between 10 and 16 between 1970 and 1997.
The police case was based on evidence that the pensioner had given the teenage boys alcohol and pornographic magazines before sexually abusing them.
The prosecution accused the man of rewarding sex victims by buying them motorbikes and cars, allowing them to ride and drive on his properties, and taking them to the speedway.
The original trial was abandoned because it was suspected the man had cancer, but a new trial date was subsequently set in April 2004.
The defence team then supplied another medical report stating that the pensioner suffered from dementia, and it was ruled he was unfit to plead.
But in November 2005, NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus directed that a trial go ahead.
The DPP last night confirmed the no bill decision, but would not comment further because not all the alleged victims had been advised.
But one, who called himself Damian, told The Australian he was extremely upset and confused by the decision.
"I've seen the pensioner driving his car around and doing normal things, so if he has dementia, why haven't they taken his driver's licence from him?" he said.
"The police have also told me they have video evidence of him functioning quite normally in society."

The Australian (23-8-2006)
Steve Barrett


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