Kidnapping conspiracy defendants allege ‘unfair’ treatment

Four people accused of plotting to pervert the course of justice in Queensland in connection with an alleged child abduction ring have failed to stop their upcoming trial.

NSW doctors William Russell Pridgeon and Patrick Finbarr McGarry-O’Dea, from Grafton in north-eastern NSW, faced Brisbane District Court with two accused women on Thursday for a hearing on their request to stay the indictments.

The charges relate to the group’s alleged involvement in a child theft ring more than four years ago that helped mothers escape because they believed their children were being abused by fathers.

Pridgeon, Odie, and one of the women were each charged with two counts of conspiracy to defeat justice, and the other woman was charged with one count.

King Prosecutor Daniel Whitmore said he intended to call 22 witnesses and present 150 documents including telephone intercepts, surveillance material and video footage produced by the defendants.

Odey, who represented himself, told the court that he did not understand the charges against him and had difficulty following the proceedings because he was “extremely deaf”.

“I’m preparing for trial in a few weeks. I don’t understand the charges. They keep changing. I can’t get legal representation because my salary has been damaged,” O’Dea said.

O’Dea said he was in a “crazy” position because he could not read small print in court documents and could not retrieve documents from a USB memory stick.

The Reverend Paul Robert Burton, vicar of Newcastle, made a motion stating that Odey was unfit to stand trial due to mental and physical health problems resulting from the Rhodesian War.

Judge Leanne Clare said Burton was not a psychologist and that she saw “no reason to question (O’Dea’s) ability to plead within the law”.

Pridgeon, who represented himself, sought documentation from the police of any child abuse involved in the case.

Judge Leanne Clare said any such documents were not relevant and would also be protected.

“Parents are not on trial, you are on trial… what matters is what you knew, what you believed and why,” Judge Claire said.

Pridgeon was allowed to see documents on his computer that were seized by the police, and said he would object to the prosecution’s use of the word “kidnapping” because he said it indicated he had committed a crime.

Judge Claire also rejected the requests of three defendants, describing her as “examining their liberation from the indictment.”

“The three are advocates of the right of their case, but they are not lawyers and find it difficult to understand points of law and fact,” said Justice Clare.

“They did research but were artificially selective and their misunderstanding of the law fueled their sense of persecution.”

An accuser complained that she could not understand the summary of evidence, but Judge Clare said she was “not convinced there was an injustice” because the brief had already been simplified.

The case will go back to court on April 20 and is expected to go to trial in May.

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