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Child rape case: Appeal ruled out

THE State Government has launched a review into a program for people who sexually assault their own children after a Casino man who entered the program escaped a prison sentence, despite admitting he sexually abused his young daughter 74 times.

However, the man, who cannot be named, will not go to jail for his crimes, with Attorney-General John Hatzistergos saying the man’s referral to the Cedar Cottage program cannot be appealed.

The case caused an outcry across the State when the man walked from Lismore District Court with a conviction against his name, but no sentence after being accepted into the program.

The man pleaded guilty to 27 counts of having sex with his daughter against her will between January and July last year, while she was aged 10 and 11. Another 47 counts, which the man admitted to, were included in the indictment, but not formally listed as charges.

The referral meant the man would have to go to Sydney to take part in the program for two years, but would spend no time in prison – apart from time served while on remand.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions at the time denied the man had ‘walked free’ or been given ‘an easy alternative to prison’, saying Cedar Cottage had strict rules and any breach of those rules could result in the man being sent back to court and, potentially, to jail.

However, under the Cedar Cottage program, the man is able to hold down a job, go to the movies or out to dinner, or take part in almost any of the other activities taken for granted by free citizens.

The court decision also enraged the man’s victim and his former partner, who had keenly anticipated the opportunity to give evidence against him and to put on the public record the impact his actions had on his daughter.

The case was taken up in State Parliament by NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell questioning how the man could have escaped jail.

In the wake of the case, Clarence MP Steve Cansdell and Shadow Attorney-General Greg Smith said they would introduce a private members Bill in the next sitting of Parliament aimed at choking off the loophole that let the man go free.

However, Mr Cansdell now says that plan is on hold while the Opposition waits to see the outcome of the Attorney-General’s review.

Mr Cansdell believed Mr Hatzistergos genuinely wanted to fix the issue and he and Mr Smith would rather work with the Government to close the loophole quickly than try grabbing credit for a private members Bill that could not get through the Lower House without Government support.

“I’ll say this about Hatzistergos, I thoroughly believe he’s a very good man,” Mr Cansdell said.

“He would have been disgusted (at the failure to properly sentence the man),” he said.

“It’s something that has happened,” he said. “Now we have to see what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

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