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  Home :: 2006 December :: DPP takes dismissed case to highest court

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20872556-5006787,00.html

DPP takes dismissed case to highest court

December 05, 2006

THE South Australian Director of Public Prosecutions wants severalpoliticians and political staffers to give evidence in the state's highest courtto dispute claims of pedophilia in high places.

In an extraordinary move, DPP Stephen Pallaras has ignored amagistrate's decision in August to toss out seven charges of criminal defamationbecause of a lack of evidence, and now wants the three defendants tried in thestate's highest court.

Wendy Utting, Barry Standfield and Craig Ratcliff caused a political storm inMarch last year when they allegedly told journalists that a Rann government MP,a former Liberal MP and two senior police officers were pedophiles.

The names were never published in South Australia and are legally suppressedin this case.

A police investigation failed to substantiate the claims, but Ms Utting, MrStandfield and Mr Ratcliff were charged with nine counts of criminal defamation.

Last Friday in the South Australian District Court, prosecutor Martin Hintonsaid the charges must be heard in the "public interest" in the state's SupremeCourt. "The defamatory statements were of a particularly insidious nature madeagainst people in high public office ... that may require evidence having to begiven," Mr Hinton said.

During the month-long controversy the Government made no public comment, butbriefed media organisations that any media which published the name of the LaborMP would face charges of criminal defamation.

Adelaide magistrates were disqualified from hearing the charges, and DistrictCourt judge Marie Shaw acted as a magistrate at the committal stage.

In August she tossed out seven of the nine charges as "no case to answer".Another charge was withdrawn and Mr Ratcliff remains charged on a single countbased on statements allegedly made to a television program several years beforethe controversy.

In court before District Court judge David Lovell, Mr Hinton admitted the DPPdisagreed with Judge Shaw's decision, and so had issued an "ex-officioindictment" which again brings the charges to court without committal. He saidthe trial would attract great public interest and so should be heard by a "redjudge" of the Supreme Court.

"At the moment in the community pedophilia and sexual abuse is something thatattracts great public comment and great sanction," Mr Hinton said.

"It is entirely within contemplation that the Crown will call, for example,one of the defamed or all of the defamed people and they will be put in thewitness box and questions will be put to them as to their involvement inpedophilia.

"Suddenly (the case) becomes a showcase in some ways for matters of highpublic interest."

George Mancini, for Ms Utting, opposed the application to move the case tothe Supreme Court. "To grant the application is tantamount to undermining publicconfidence in this (District) court," he said.

Judge Lovell asked for further written submissions and reserved hisdecision.



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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia