THE sexual assault trial of former Anglican Dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence, began again on Wednesday in a judge-alone trial, a day after the proceedings were aborted and the jury discharged due to potentially prejudicial publicity.
Mr Lawrence has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent and one of indecent assault in relation to an alleged assault on a 15-year-old boy in 1991. The prosecution case is that Mr Lawrence - then the second-most senior Anglican in the Newcastle diocese - had sexual intercourse with the 15-year-old in his house, known as the Deanery, next door to Christ Church Cathedral, on a night sometime between April 1 and December 31, 1991.
The jury trial began on Monday with opening addresses, the prosecution and defence outlining what they said would be the evidence in the trial and the issues for the jury to determine.
But on Tuesday morning Mr Lawrence's barrister, Paul Winch, raised with Judge Tim Gartelmann, SC, potentially prejudicial publicity about the case.
Mr Winch said a broadcast on 1233 ABC Newcastle on the afternoon of the first day of proceedings repeatedly linked the trial of Mr Lawrence with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, a reference and association that had been excluded from the trial and was not mentioned before the jury during that day's opening addresses.
"It is the case that we had spent in preparation of this trial considerable hours and efforts negotiating and speaking with the Crown, deleting as far as can be deleted as far as evidence presented to the jury to link to the Royal Commission and its obvious negative connotations to this case," Mr Winch said.
"The news article puts it front and centre."
Mr Winch said the radio broadcast also featured an interview with a person unrelated to the trial and the journalist called the complainant in the case "the abuse victim".
After listening to the broadcast, Judge Gartelmann discharged the jury.
"I am of the view that the bulletin last night gave rise to a significant risk of prejudice to the accused and his right to a fair trial," Judge Gartelmann said.
Judge Gartelmann said the presumed prejudice arising from the broadcast was such that it might be impossible to find a jury in Newcastle that wasn't "infected".
Later, the defence and prosecution returned to court with a joint-agreement that the new trial would start before Judge Gartelmann alone on Wednesday.
The evidence of the complainant was heard before a closed court, while the media was not permitted to attend a viewing of the Christ Church Cathedral.
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