ACT News


Trial judge misdirected jury, claim lawyers in sex abuse case

Lawyers for an award-winning artist convicted of sexually abusing a girl who became pregnant have attacked the directions given to the jury in the case.

Dennis Michael Nona was found guilty by an ACT Supreme Court jury in August last year of four child sex charges against the girl when she was aged 12.

But the 39-year-old's legal team has sought to have the conviction declared a mistrial.

Nona was studying at the Australian National University and in a live-in relationship with the child's mother when he had sexual intercourse with and committed acts of indecency on the victim in 1995 and 1996.

The pregnancy was discovered when police went to the house after receiving reports of a domestic violence incident between Nona and the girl's mother.

The 20-week pregnancy was terminated in Brisbane, where samples of the victim's blood and the foetus were retained.


Subsequent DNA testing, conducted in 1998, suggested Nona was likely the father.

But Nona's lawyers told the ACT Court of Appeal on Friday that the trial judge, acting Justice John Nield, misdirected the jury.

Barrister John Purnell, SC, challenged the weight given to DNA evidence, conducted in 1998, in the judge's final directions to the jury.

He said the problems with 1998 testing procedures were not properly explained.

"Juries can be seduced by DNA evidence," he said. "When they're hit with a report that says [there's a 99.988 per cent chance the father is Nona] then it's all over rover."

Mr Purnell also argued the victim's testimony was contradictory after she declined to name Nona as the father.

But the Director of Public Prosecutions, Jon White, said the DNA was only one plank in what was a strong circumstantial case.

Chief Justice Terence Higgins, Justice Hilary Penfold and Justice John Dowsett reserved their decision on Wednesday and will hand down judgment at a date to be set.