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Sex trial delayed until 2014

Date

Louis Andrews

An accused child molester's right to the barrister of his choice outweighs the need for a prompt retrial, a court has ruled.

The ACT Supreme Court decision, published on Tuesday, means the trial may not be heard until as far off as March 2014.

''To adjourn until 2014 is, at the best, extremely unfortunate,'' Justice Richard Refshauge wrote.

''The resources available to this court at present make that inevitable but very undesirable.

''This is not an easy decision. The availability of an early date is very desirable and, indeed, seductive. Nevertheless, the rights of the accused are extremely important and need to be preserved and respected to the maximum possible.''

The 61-year-old man, who cannot be named, stood trial in September on two counts of having sexual intercourse with his five-year-old step-granddaughter. He pleaded not guilty, and also denied two counts of committing acts of indecency on the child.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict and was ultimately discharged. A new trial date was found for March 2014 but a date earlier this month then became free.

The Crown supported the expedited hearing date but the man's barrister, Shane Gill, opposed it on the basis he was in another trial.

The court heard Mr Gill had been involved in the case since August 2009, before the matter was committed for trial.

The barrister said the case was a clash of two of his client's human rights - the right to trial without unreasonable delay and the right to be represented through ''legal assistance chosen by him or her''.

Mr Gill said his client preferred to wait until 2014 for his trial than face a jury with another barrister.

Justice Refshauge took into account Mr Gill's lengthy involvement in the case, the fact the barrister was involved in another case at the time and the accused man's waiver of any reliance on the right to trial without unreasonable delay. He also noted the evidence of the alleged victim had already been pre-recorded and the charges, if proven, were likely to result in a term of imprisonment.

There was no evidence before the court to suggest any witnesses would be unavailable in 2014.

The judge said he would look for available dates earlier than 2014.

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