Australia

Stepmum found not guilty of incest in judge-alone trial

The Melbourne woman, who can not be named so as not to identify the relative, had been convicted by a jury twice but they were quashed by judges of the Court of Appeal.Her third trial was judge-alone — without a jury — and conducted over audiovisual link, an unusual circumstance which is the only way…

The Melbourne woman, who can not be named so as not to identify the relative, had been convicted by a jury twice but they were quashed by judges of the Court of Appeal.

Her third trial was judge-alone — without a jury — and conducted over audiovisual link, an unusual circumstance which is the only way for trials to precede during the COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria.

County Court of Victoria Judge Michael Bourke said he was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of her guilt.

“The complainant presented as honest and apparently reliable in his account of the alleged conduct charged,” he said.

“However, I am obliged to go beyond such subjective assessment.

“There is no support for the complainant’s (account) of the amorous grooming behaviour.

“Ultimately, my assessment of the total evidence leads me to the position that I am not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged conduct occurred.”

It had been alleged to the court that when the woman was aged 25 and 26 and her stepson was aged 13 and 14 — from 1985 to 1987 — she encouraged the child to perform oral sex on her including with an “alphabet game”, performed oral sex on him, and that they had penetrative sex.

But the woman told the court it hadn’t happened and there was no “amorous or sexual conduct” with her stepson.

She was charged with two counts of gross indecency with a person under the age of 16, and two counts of incest.

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