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Peter Versi's bid to appeal sex abuse conviction goes to full bench of High Court

Under review: Peter Versi.

Under review: Peter Versi.

A prominent Sydney property developer jailed for sexual misconduct against his young stepdaughter at their Mosman home in the 1980s is a step closer to having his conviction overturned in the High Court.

Peter Versi's application for special leave to appeal has been referred to the full bench, meaning five of the most senior judges will consider his case.

In 2012, Versi, then 63, was found guilty by a District Court jury of one act of indecency and one act of sexual intercourse without consent and was jailed for 18 months. He maintains his innocence and is supported by his wife, Catherine, who is the victim's mother.

The case caused outrage when Versi's legal team successfully argued his identity should be suppressed, pending the outcome of an appeal, because the publicity surrounding his conviction would be ''catastrophic'' to his reputation and future business activity.

The Crown successfully applied for the order to be lifted. Last November, Versi's appeal against his conviction was dismissed by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal although his sentence was reduced so he is eligible for parole on Christmas Eve.

However Versi's lawyers sought leave to appeal to the High Court, arguing the trial judge should not have admitted the evidence of a witness known as SD1. She told the jury that in 1979 when she was 13, Versi, who was naked under his bathrobe, asked her to come into his bathroom and hold his genitals while he ''fixed'' a hernia in his groin. She has never pressed charges.

The trial judge admitted SD1's testimony as ''coincidence evidence'' but only for one of the four charges. Versi was found not guilty of two charges but found guilty of digitally penetrating the victim's vagina and telling her, ''this is what we do when we can't get to sleep''.

The High Court has been asked to find there was a miscarriage of justice and quash his conviction. The victim said she is distressed and in disbelief at the potential of a retrial.

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