NSW Magistrate Guilty of Sexual Offences

by Sonia Hickey & Ugur Nedim

A jury in Downing Centre District Court has found the Magistrate charged with nine counts of indecent assault guilty of seven of the counts.

68-year old Graeme Curran was found guilty of indecently assaulting a boy aged between 13 and 15 years in the 1980s.

Over the initial stages of the trial, Mr Curran sat silently as the complainant gave testimony about the pair’s relationship, telling the court that the defendant would refer to him a “little chicken” before performing indecent acts upon him.

The court heard Mr Curran took the boy and his younger brother on sailing trips, as well holidays to the Snowy Mountains and as far as Europe.

The indecent assaults included encouraging the boy to sleep naked in the bed with him before stroking the boy’s naked body, and pulling the boy’s pants down and putting it in his mouth during a sailing trip.

The Magistrate took the witness stand to steadfastly maintain his innocence, likening the relationship to one between a father and son. And while he admitted sharing a bed, he denied touching him inappropriately.

Victim’s response

After the verdict, a spokesperson for the victim read from a statement which encouraged others to come forward, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

“The liberation gained by the conviction is profound, but even more so was the opportunity to stand before the court and tell my story”, the statement read.

“This is where true freedom is found.”

Suspended

Mr Curran was suspended from his position at Downing Centre Court in accordance with the provisions of section 40(1)(b) of the Judicial Officers Act 1986 (NSW).

That section provides that, among other things, a judicial officer may be suspended if he or she is charged with an offence that is punishable by imprisonment for 12 months or more.

He remains listed as a Magistrate on the Local Court website, and is not expected to be removed under the provisions of section 41 of the Act until his appeals have been exhausted

Sentencing

Mr Curran presided over the Local Court for more than 15 years before the charges were brought against him.

After the verdict, District Court Judge Anthony Rafter heard the offender has a number of health issues and wishes to “get his affairs in order”.

His bail was continued and the matter is listed for sentencing on 17 May 2019.

The Judge made clear Mr Curran is likely to receive a full time custodial sentence.

Indecent Assault in NSW

Indecent assault is an offence under section 61L of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) which comes with a maximum penalty five years’ imprisonment if tried in a higher court such as the District Court, or two years if the case remains in the Local Court.

To be found guilty, the prosecution is required to prove each of the following ‘elements’ beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant assaulted the complainant

In the context of the section, an assault is the deliberate and unlawful touching of another person. The slightest touch is sufficient to amount to an assault and it does not have to be a hostile or aggressive act or one that caused the complainant fear or pain.

  1. The assault was indecent

Indecent means contrary to the ordinary standards of respectable people in the community, and it must have a sexual connotation or overtone.

  1. The assault was committed without the complainant’s consent

Consent involves the conscious and voluntary permission by the complainant to the defendant to touch the complainant’s body in the manner that the defendant did.

Consent or the absence of consent can be communicated by the words or acts of the complainant.

  1. The defendant knew the complainant was not consenting

The defendant must have known was not consenting. This is not a question of what a reasonable person would have realised, thought or believed, but what the defendant knew.

It is important to note that a person under the age of 16 cannot provide consent, and an indecent act will be regarded as an indecent assault in the absence of consent.

Aggravated indecent assault is an offence under section 61M of the Crimes Act.

To be found guilty, the prosecution must prove the above four ‘elements’ beyond reasonable doubt as well as at least one of the following ‘aggravating circumstances’.

  1. the defendant was the company of another person/s,
  2. the complainant is under the authority of the defendant,
  3. the complainant has a serious physical disability, or
  4. the complainant has a cognitive impairment.

The maximum penalty is seven years’ imprisonment, or ten years if the complainant is under the age of 16.

 

Authors

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice, and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team.

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with over 20 years of experience in criminal defence. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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