David Joseph Perrett to stand trial on historical sex abuse charges

David Joseph Perrett
David Joseph Perrett

A former Catholic priest, accused of sexually abusing or molesting children while he was working in the New England region, will face trial early next year.

David Joseph Perrett appeared in Armidale District Court on Friday morning where a trial date was set down for two weeks, from January 18, 2021.

But the court head the trial could be as long as four weeks, with hearing days to only run for three or four hours due to Perrett's poor health.

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The 82-year-old was wheeled into the courtroom in a wheelchair on Friday morning for the hearing.

Perrett had been facing charges in relation to 37 separate complainants, but his defence counsel requested the case be reduced to three or four complainants and be heard before a judge alone rather than a jury.

David Joseph Perrett, in the front passenger seat, leaves Armidale Courthouse on Friday morning. Picture: contributed

David Joseph Perrett, in the front passenger seat, leaves Armidale Courthouse on Friday morning. Picture: contributed

Perrett had been charged with 139 separate historical child abuse allegations from when he was a priest in the Armidale, Walcha, Guyra and wider New England area, in the 1970s, '80s and '90s.

Perrett has denied all charges against him, and will fight the allegations at trial.

The court was also told that Perrett wanted the matter heard in Armidale, rather than being transferred to Sydney.

"He's not unfit to stand trial, but there are very real practical issues coming to court," the defence counsel said.

Perrett was granted bail in the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney last April after the judge was told the retired clergyman's treating doctor had given him between six and 12 months to live, due to a number of health conditions.

He was bailed to live with family members in Armidale.

David Joseph Perrett leaves Armidale Courthouse in 2017. Picture: Rachel Baxter

David Joseph Perrett leaves Armidale Courthouse in 2017. Picture: Rachel Baxter

On Friday, his defence counsel said Perrett was being supported by his brother and cousin, and said it was doctor's advice that the trial be heard here and not transferred to Sydney.

"It would need to be a special fixture to accommodate what is being sought," Justice Warwick Hunt said, before asking both Crown prosecutor Brendan Campbell and the defence counsel about their availability for a trial.

Mr Campbell said he was unavailable in November, but said he did not have to be involved,

Justice Hunt asked Mr Campbell if he would be available for a special fixture in January or February, and he replied he would.

After departing the courtroom for off bench discussions, the judge returned and said the trial would be listed for two weeks commencing on January 18.

"It is listed as a special fixture, with nothing else listed at all," Justice Hunt said.

Once regular court hearings resume in February, Justice Hunt said they could be heard in the afternoon, with the Perrett trial heard in the morning.

The matter was adjourned until November 9, when a readiness hearing will determine if it is still on track to go to trial in January.

Perrett remains on conditional bail.

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