Judge-only trial for man accused of raping autistic child

A ROCKHAMPTON man facing a host of child sex charges allegedly committed against an autistic boy has been afforded a judge-only trial after a court ruled he may not receive a fair hearing.

The man, 42, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been charged with maintaining a sexual relationship with a child at Rockhampton over a three year period between July, 2010 and July, 2013.

He has also been charged with two counts of rape on dates unknown over the same period.

The man has pleaded guilty to the maintaining count, but not guilty to the rape charges.

Medical experts have diagnosed the boy as having a mental age of seven years and 10 months along with extremely low IQ levels.

The man, who lived across the road from the boy and his family, allegedly used to visit the boy in the afternoons and engaged in sexual acts with him.

Defence barrister Frank Martin, at a hearing in the Rockhampton District Court earlier this month, also sought to have an interview with the boy and police excluded from evidence claiming the boy said he had been told what to say by his mother.

This was rejected.

Judge Paul Smith, in granting the judge-only trial this week, said the guilty plea to once of the charges was a determining factor.

He said there was no doubt that the alleged sexual offences are ones which likely to inflame prejudice.

"In this case not only is a child involved but also one who is clearly mentally disabled," he said.

"In my view despite any direction it would be very difficult for a jury to not be prejudiced against a defendant who has pleaded guilty to maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship with a clearly and obviously mentally impaired boy.

"It is clear he has substantially abused the trust the family reposed in him and this fact would in my view overwhelm the case."

Judge Smith said it was combination of factors which led him to the conclusion that the defence had established both special reasons to make the judge-only order and that it is in the interests of justice to make such an order.

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