Armidale jury discharged in trial of school staffer accused of sexual intercourse with male students at New England school

Trial aborted: Judge Jennifer English discharged the jury in Armidale District Court on Thursday.
Trial aborted: Judge Jennifer English discharged the jury in Armidale District Court on Thursday.

A JURY has been discharged in the trial of a school staff member charged with sexually assaulting students in the New England after they failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

Judge Jennifer English aborted the trial in Armidale District Court and thanked the jury for their service on Thursday morning – two days after they retired to consider their verdicts on 12 charges.

The 23-year-old accused cannot be identified after an extensive suppression order was placed on the trial, which started on January 18.

The woman pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 17 under care, two counts of aggravated sexual intercourse with a child under 16, and six counts of sexual intercourse with a child under care aged between 17 and 18.

Shortly before midday on Thursday, the 12 jury members sent a note to the court outlining that they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the charges.

Judge English then discharged the jury and adjourned the case to a date in March to find a new trial date.

Judge English continued the woman’s bail but varied the conditions, including where she is to reside, and also ordered her to surrender her passport to the court within 72 hours.

The name, location and type of school has been suppressed by the court with an extensive non-publication order placed on much of the details surrounding the case, to protect the alleged victims, who were students at the school at the time of the alleged offending.

The woman was not employed as a teacher but was a member of staff.

Crown prosecutor Max Pincott said in his closing address, last week, that the accused asked all of the students to delete any Facebook or text correspondence.

“The crown’s case is that the accused had a sexual interest in these boys and she used her position, a position of authority, there's no doubt about that, to take advantage of these boys,” he told the jury.

In his closing address, defence barrister Gregory Heathcote told the jury his client had been “threatened” and “made mistakes” but he said there was a “consistency of lying by the witnesses”.

He said the accused was scared and “she wanted to keep these people happy so they didn't dob”.

“She's not perfect, she's made mistakes, she knows that,” he said.