Poor video link shuts down trial

A LACK of an appropriate video link in the District Court at Albury yesterday caused the trial of two men facing rape charges to be aborted.

A jury was empanelled on Tuesday in the joint trials of Paul John Lawler and David Mark Botheras, who each pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent.

Barristers considered moving the case to the smaller magistrate’s court when made aware of the lack of facilities.

But after inspecting that court crown prosecutor Chris Todd said it was not suitable and asked that the jury be discharged.

The trial was due to hear evidence against Lawler and Botheras over the rape of a woman almost two years ago.

It is alleged the woman, 20, passed out at the Black Uhlans clubhouse in South Albury in May 2011 and woke to find a man having sex with her.

The woman later went to Lawler’s house to sleep on a couch and when she woke allegedly found him having sex with her.

The complainant was reluctant about coming to Albury and her evidence was to be heard via video link.

Judge Paul Lakatos told jury members yesterday the court was supposed to have first-world technology, but that was not the case.

“This trial has now been aborted through a number of deficiencies in the audio visual technology and the like,” he said.

Applications for costs on behalf of Lawler, 48, and Botheras, 49, were made by their barristers and granted.

A spokesman for NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith said delays of this kind were always regrettable.

“The Attorney-General will investigated the circumstances surrounding this trial and the feasibility of upgrading the facilities at Albury Courthouse,” he said.

A spokesman for the member for Albury, Greg Aplin, said he would raise the issue with Mr Smith.

Mr Todd asked for the case to be adjourned to a District Court call-over next month.

It was suggested it could be transferred to Wagga, but there were similar concerns about appropriate video link technology being available there.

There is a possibility the trial, which is expected to take at least two weeks, may be adjourned to Sydney for hearing.

Judge Lakatos said the alleged offences happened in May 2011 and were now getting “long in the tooth”.

He said it could be the middle of this year before the trial proceeds.

“That is bad for the accused and the complainant,” he said.

A District Court trial was last year moved briefly to the magistrate’s court for evidence from one witness.

The sound equipment in the two courts is not compatible, with the larger District Court having digital and the smaller court analogue.