Guilty plea lets Legal Aid avoid perversion of justice case

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2005, 12:00am

The Legal Aid Department was yesterday spared from giving evidence in a criminal trial after a client pleaded guilty to charges of perverting the course of justice in a rape case seven months ago.


The public defender had agreed to give evidence in the criminal trial in which the client, convicted in an earlier trial of raping his daughter, was accused of threatening his immediate family members with acts of violence unless they testified that the rape had never taken place.


The court heard yesterday that the 50-year-old man, now serving six years and eight months' jail after pleading guilty to the rape, had threatened to chop his younger son with an axe and to throw his wife to the street from the ninth floor.


A row erupted among the Legal Aid Department, the Department of Justice and the police after police had obtained search warrants to enter the department's offices and seize documents relating to the perversion of justice charge.


The Legal Aid Department turned the police away twice in April and May.


In May, the department sought an interim injunction against the police blocking the execution of warrants and filed an application for leave to apply for a judicial review of them.


In a compromise last month the Legal Aid Department agreed to drop its judicial review application. The prosecution in turn agreed to withdraw the warrants and instead sought to apply for a witness summons requiring a legal aid officer to give evidence and produce documents in court.


With yesterday's guilty plea, the department was effectively spared the task of giving evidence. The rapist pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and attempting to wound with intent.


The man was arrested by police in January last year for raping his then 14-year-old daughter in 2001, but was released on bail awaiting trial in January this year.


The court heard yesterday that late last December the man, who had a history of domestic violence, repeatedly ordered his younger son to tell the court at his trial, due to start in January, that the rapes never took place. But the son refused.


Prosecutor John Reading SC told the court that on one occasion last December, the man had threatened his son by wielding an axe, but he escaped unharmed. He said the man had screamed: 'See if I chop you to death or not.'


The man also forced his illiterate wife last December to agree to make a false statement in the rape trial, Mr Read said. 'If you do not do it, I will push you down to the street from the ninth floor,' the man had told her.


He also ordered his wife to dictate the content of the false statement into a cassette tape and demanded that she listen to it from time to time to memorise it.


The younger son, with his mother, elder brother and daughter-in-law told police in January of the man's acts of intimidation, shortly before the start of the trial.


The case was adjourned to September 1 for sentencing.