FORMER Nelson Bay Catholic priest David O’Hearn has lost his bid to appeal to the High Court over how trials of child sex assault charges against him involving six alleged victims will proceed.
The priest’s bid to have all six trials heard separately was unsuccessful after High Court Justices John Heydon and Virginia Bell refused yesterday to grant him leave to appeal a NSW Court of Criminal Appeal decision handed down in April.
The Court of Criminal Appeal backed a NSW District Court judge’s decision that while trials involving three alleged victims would be heard separately, sexual assault and indecent assault charges involving another three alleged victims would be heard together in a joint trial.
Father O’Hearn has denied all allegations.
In the Court of Criminal Appeal hearing in November last year the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions argued for a joint trial involving three alleged victims so that evidence from each alleged victim could be heard as part of the same proceeding.
The High Court’s ruling yesterday that there was no legal basis to reconsider the Court of Criminal Appeal’s decision means District Court trials involving 18 sexual assault and indecent assault charges can now proceed.
Father O’Hearn is charged with indecently assaulting three boys in the Rutherford and Muswellbrook areas between 1981 and 1989.
He is also charged with sexually assaulting and indecently assaulting three other boys in the Muswellbrook, Cessnock and Windale areas between 1986 and 1993.
The matters return to the District Court next week.