Mr Hughes is best known for his starring role in the television series, Hey Dad…!
In 2014, he was found guilty of 10 historic sexual and indecent assault offences involving four young girls, committed between 1984 and 1990.
Mr Hughes was amongst the most famous and beloved faces on Australian television, having played a loving father in the long-running series. Indeed to many, his calm and genuine on-screen persona made allegations he had abused children behind the scenes shocking and difficult to believe.
In 2014, the actor was sentenced to 10 years and nine months behind bars with a minimum term of six years.
Tough time behind bars
As a well-known and easily recognisable convicted sex offender, Mr Hughes was the target of multiple verbal and physical attacks by other inmates behind prison walls.
He spent his time at the Goulburn ‘supermax’ prison, and was subjected to attacks with boiling water, urine and faeces.
A special wall was built to provide him with some protection against the attacks, and additional guards were assigned to accompany him when he had to move around the prison.
This caused a number of people to accuse authorities of giving him ‘special treatment’, despite the fact that in the Australian criminal justice system the deprivation of liberty is the punishment, and people are not sent to prison to be additionally punished there – let alone subjected to the constant threat of victimisation.
After being sentenced, Mr Hughes filed two appeals in the Supreme Court of New South Wales – both of which were unsuccessful.
Australian citizenship renounced
Due to the constant threats, fear and attacks, Mr Hughes applied for transfer to an international, but later withdrew that application.
He was a dual UK/Australian citizen but renounced his Australian citizenship in 2020.
Having served more than 12 months behind bars, this meant he was subject to deportation to the UK after the completion of his sentence.
Child sexual offenders prohibited from travelling
In 2017, the Australian Government introduced amendments to the Commonwealth legislation which makes it an offence for a person whose name appears on a child protection register to travel, or attempt to travel, overseas without permission from a competent authority.
Under this law, tens of thousands of convicted child sexual offenders have had their passports cancelled.
The law was primarily introduced to stop convicted Australian child sex offenders from participating in child-sex trafficking and tourism.
However, under these laws, it is likely that Mr Hughes could have been denied a passport by the Australian Federal Government and the opportunity to travel to the UK.
Mr Hughes is now 73 years old, having served eight years behind bars.
Two of his parole applications were refused, but his most application before the State Parole Authority in Parramatta was approved after the Authority found that he no longer represents a threat to the community.
During his parole application on 27 May 2022, Mr Hughes’ lawyer submitted that her client has:
“consistently been assessed as either medium, below risk or low risk of reoffending”, adding that:
“Whilst in custody… he is ineligible for any sex offender programs… there are no further programs that he can complete whilst in custody that would go to reducing his risk of reoffending”.
“It’s not a situation where he will be completely unmonitored when released to the community.
The Authority reserved its decision, before publishing a judgement on 2 June 2022 which included the words Mr Hughes has long been waiting for: “Parole is granted”.
The conditions of parole include that Highes seeks treatment in the UK, report to British police on a regular basis, keep authorities there informed of his address and contact details and accept monitoring.
Although Mr Hughes’ wife – celebrity agent Robyn Gardiner, believes in her husband’s innocence and has steadfastly stood by him, she has undertaken to assist him to seek treatment with a psychologist with specialist experience in treating in sex offenders who do not admit to the crimes for which they have been convicted.
Ms Gardiner has also expressed ‘sensitivity’ to the fact that Robert Hughes cannot spend time with children or live near places they frequent without notifying authorities.
She is firmly of the view that her husband loves children, would never hurt them, and that the allegations against the result of misunderstanding, exaggeration and/or fabrication.