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    Gareth Ward, a current member of NSW parliament, has been charged with sexual assault over historical allegations.

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      gareth ward

      MP Gareth Ward Charged with Sexual Assault

      Gareth Ward, a current member of NSW parliament, has been charged with sexual assault over historical allegations.

      The Liberal MP is expected to fight the charges and has released a statement claiming he is innocent.

      It has created an issue for Premier Dominic Perrottet, who has called for Ward’s resignation.

      Should he resign, it will force a fifth by-election.

      Charged with Sexual Assault

      Gareth Ward, a former minister for families, communities and disability services, was charged on Tuesday with three counts of assault with an act of indecency, sexual intercourse without consent and common assault.

      Police received a complaint from a 17-year-old boy who alleged he was indecently assaulted by Mr Ward nine years ago.

      They also will allege that the NSW Liberal MP sexually abused a 27-year-old man six and a half years ago.

      No Resignation

      Despite Mr Perrottet being on paternity leave, he had “attempted to contact the Kiama MP to seek his resignation from the Parliament with immediate effect”.

      The Premier went on to say, “Mr Ward is entitled to defend himself against the serious charges against him but he must do that as a private citizen”.

      However, the Crown Solicitor advsed the government that Ward could not be sacked over the charges and that the parliament should not discuss the matter because it could prejudice a future trial.

      Notably, public discussion of the Brittany Higgins story has led to an application for a stay of those proceedings.  

      The legal advice went onto state that the member for Kiama should be suspended until a jury verdict was returned on the criminal charges.

      This is because he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. No finding of guilt has been made against him at this stage. As such, any punitive action would deny Ward procedural fairness – that is, he would not have had an adequate opportunity to defend himself against the allegations.  

      The suspension would prevent him from entering parliament but, under current rules, he would still be entitled to receive his salary and entitlements.

      Attempt to Suspend Gareth Ward from Parliament

      Acting Premier Paul Toole moved a motion to suspend Mr Ward after the sexual assault charges were formally laid.

      Mr Toole said the motion would not be debated in parliament to protect the rights of complainants. Both alleged victims are now adults, with the allegations based on incidents in 2013 and 2015.

       “This house acknowledges the need to ensure the alleged victims in this matter have their day in court and therefore cannot debate the alleged misconduct of the member for Kiama,” Mr Toole said in question time.

      Mr Toole said the house did not have the power to withhold a member’s salary, but the government had sought advice on withholding a suspended member’s remuneration and entitlements.

      Gareth Ward has denied the allegations against him and vowed to fight the sexual assault charges in court.

      “I am innocent, and I intend to prove it,” he said in a statement.

      He was granted bail and will appear at Port Kembla Local Court on 18 May.

      Who is Gareth Ward?

      Gareth Ward has been a member of NSW parliament since 2011. He also suffers from a rare disorder that has rendered him legally blind and lacking melanin pigment in the skin, hair and eyes.

      In the past, he was a part-time professional musician and completed a law degree at the University of New England as well as a master of laws at the University of Sydney.

      When he was first elected to Parliament, he referred to Dominic Perrottet as one of four friends who were MPs.

      Historical Sexual Assault Charges

      The definition of sexual assault is engaging in sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. It is contained in Section 61I of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

      One of the common defences to sexual assault is identification. If the Crown cannot establish that the Accused was the offender, then the offence cannot be proved. Often experts can be used such as DNA, fingerprint, CCTV and intoxication experts to cast doubt on identification.

      The maximum penalty for sexual intercourse without consent is 14 years Imprisonment. There is also a Standard Non-Parole Period which is 7 years imprisonment.

      There have been a number of recent examples of these charges being dismissed after an accused retains experienced criminal lawyers. You can read about some of those cases by clicking here.

      Having an experienced defence lawyer for sexual assault charges will go a long way towards beating these charges. Call Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823. Or, you can email info@astorlegal.com.au.

      The definition of sexual assault is engaging in sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. It is contained in Section 61I of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

      Sexual assault allegations are far more common today than at any time in the past. Community attitudes have changed shifted, in large part due to the #metoo movement. Unsurprisingly, this has made fighting such allegations more difficult than ever before.

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