Molesting charges set aside by judges

A NORTH Queensland cane industry stalwart found guilty of molesting young girls for more than two decades has had his convictions quashed

Former Burdekin Canegrowers director Arthur Phillip Woods, 58, will be retried on 11 charges including digital rape and indecent treatment of a child under 16 after his conviction and sentence were overturned at appeal.

A jury convicted the 58-year-old man in the Townsville District Court on March 28, last year.

Over nine days a jury heard that Woods, who was known as a "pillar" of the Burdekin community brazenly preyed on teenage girls at his farm house or in the backyard pool by groping their breasts and genitalia, massaging and trying to kiss them.

Arthur Phillip Woods leaves Townsville Court in 2019. Picture: Evan Morgan
Arthur Phillip Woods leaves Townsville Court in 2019. Picture: Evan Morgan

He was also found guilty of digitally raping a 16-year-old girl at the family home.

At the trial, Woods' own son, Michael Woods told the court his father had once told him: "if every woman I grabbed on the boob reported me, I would've been in jail years ago".

Woods was sentenced to six years jail in April last year but appealed his conviction in November on the grounds his 11 charges should not have been heard in the same trial.

It is alleged his offending took place between 1993 and 2006.

In a judgment handed down last month Court of Appeal Justices Hugh Fraser, Anthe Philippides and Philip McMurdo ordered he be retired on all counts.

Justices Fraser and McMurdo found Woods should not have faced trial for all 11 allegations at once.

Common law allows, in exceptional cases, for evidence to be admitted to court because it demonstrates a propensity or tendency of the accused.

In the trial against Woods, each woman's testimony was cross-admissible for each count.

Because of this, the appeal judges found there was a risk the jury may have convicted him using evidence that was wrongly admitted to the court.

Arthur Phillip Woods was trialled for alleged sexual offences allegedly committed between 1993 and 2015.
Arthur Phillip Woods was trialled for alleged sexual offences allegedly committed between 1993 and 2015.

"These charges should not have been tried together because the evidence of each count was not admissible in the proof of the other counts," they ruled.

Appeal Justice Anthe Philippides held a dissenting view.

She found if the evidence was accepted as true, it proved Woods had a "tendency" to be interested in female children and acted on this by "taking advantage of their presence in the home environment" in a "brazen manner". All three Justices agreed the charge of digital rape should have be tried separately.

In the appeal documents, they said "it was one thing to conclude that the appellant had tried to kiss a girl, but another thing to conclude from that event that as alleged, he had raped a girl."

When Woods has the charges retried, he will face three separate trials with three different juries.

One jury will decide if he used his fingers to rape a 16-year-old, the second will decide if he tried to kiss a 15-year-old girl and the third will hear the allegations of a number of women who say he touched them inappropriately, or groped their breasts or genitalia between 1993 and 2006.

Originally published as Molesting charges set aside by judges


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