Grafton Courthouse.
Grafton Courthouse. Adam Hourigan

Accused of three child sex charges, he will not face court

AN ELDERLY Clarence Valley man will not be tried over child sex charges following a magistrate ruling that he was unift to stand trial.

Gerald Robertson, 81, appeared in Grafton Local Court to hear the result of an application to discharge proceedings on the grounds he was not mentally competent to stand trial.

He was facing three charges of indecent assault against a young child, which allegedly occurred between April 1, 2014 and February 26, 2015.

The court heard the child knew the elderly man. It was during a visit that he allegedly put his hand under her skirt and touched her over her underwear.

When she asked him to stop, he allegedly replied, "sorry I'm a little blind", to which she allegedly replied, "no you're not, only deaf".

Similar events happened on two other occasions.

The alleged incidents were reported to police in February 2015 after the child told a friend at school about the incident, and charges were laid against Mr Robertson in March that year.

He pleaded not guilty and at one point offered an explanation that the police had fabricated the charges.

It was heard in court yesterday that the crown wished to proceed to trial. Defence solicitor Greg Coombes had conceded the accused was able to enter a plea, and understood the court would conduct an inquiry into whether he was guilty.

There were however, concerns about his ability to understand and keep up with a trial.

Magistrate Robyn Denes said that to be able to stand trial, Mr Robertson needed to, at a minimum level, be able to understand the charges, the nature of proceedings, the substantial effect of evidence brought against him, and to understand and be able to make a defence case.

Since the application to discharge the accused was lodged, Mr Robertson was assessed by two medical professionals. The first found a mild developmental delay, but no evidence of mental health problems, while the second indicated a real issue with "a number of multiple cognitive defects".

He found that Mr Robertson had a rudimentary understanding of court, but noted that after asking him several times what his definition of guilty was, his answer changed from doing the wrong thing, to not doing the wrong thing.

His understanding of the charges against him were that they were about "doing naughty things with girls".

The doctor said he was easily confused and distracted, and said he thought most questions, for him, may well "go through to the keeper". It was also heard that Robertson had limited schooling.

On the basis of evidence provided, Ms Denes said she could not be satisfied that Roberston could stand trial.

"The question for me is, has he come to minimum standards before he can be tried without unfairness or injustice?," she said.

"These are very serious allegations, which could have serious (ramifications). I'm not satisfied he would be able to follow what was being said."

An Apprehended Violence Order has been put in place for the next five years to protect the alleged victim.

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