Trio on Trial for Conspiracy Involving Moving Children

The Brisbane court heard evidence that hair dye and hats were purchased as part of a plan to relocate a child from Queensland to NSW.
Trio on Trial for Conspiracy Involving Moving Children
Police tape is seen at a protest in Sydney, Australia, on July 19, 2015. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Three people, including a GP, are facing court on allegations they conspired to avoid the law with a complex cross-border operation to move a child interstate.

A Brisbane District Court jury on Feb. 5 heard evidence that hair dye and hats were purchased as part of a plan to relocate a child from Queensland to New South Wales (NSW).

Grafton doctor William Russell Pridgeon, Patrick Finbar McGarry O'Dea, and Ann Kathleen Greer have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to defeat justice.

O'Dea also faces three counts relating to the alleged unlawful publication of court proceedings that included identifying people and three counts of using a carriage service to offend.

Prosecutor Justin Hannebery, KC, told the jury Greer left Queensland in early 2018 with a child who was subject to court orders after discussing proceedings with O'Dea.

“We have people who can help, put it that way,” O'Dea told Greer when she spoke to him before leaving the state, Mr. Hannebery said.

In April 2018, O'Dea drove Pridgeon’s car from Grafton to Brisbane to collect Greer and the child and took them to buy hair dye and hats.

“Our allegation is that was done to disguise their appearance before delivering them to other accommodation,” Mr. Hannebery told the court.

He said Greer told O'Dea on May 6, 2018, that she was thinking of handing herself in.

“But Mr. O‘Dea discouraged her from doing that and said, ’remember we have a contingency plan’,” Mr. Hannebury said.

She was arrested by police at a NSW train station later the same month.

A second alleged conspiracy involving Pridgeon and O'Dea involves the concealment of two children for about four years, the court was told.

The Crown will allege Pridgeon and O'Dea conspired with other women to facilitate the removal of two children in 2014 contrary to family court orders, Mr. Hannebery said.

The orders stemmed from a Family Court matter which included rejected allegations that the children had been sexually abused, he told the jury.

Mr. Hannebery said the Crown will allege Pridgeon hired a vehicle to transport the two children and their mother, while O'Dea, knowing they were evading authorities, transported them in a vehicle belonging to the doctor.

Prosecutors allege Pridgeon helped the mother remain in hiding by providing financial support, food and care including prescribing medication in the names of other people.

Prosecutors claim O'Dea and Pridgeon were party to a conspiracy that intended to defeat the course of justice by concealing children out of reach of authorities, Mr. Hannebery said.

“It is said that that conduct had a tendency to impede or prevent the Family Courts’ capacity to do justice,” he added.

There is not much in dispute between the Crown and defence about what happened, Pridgeon’s barrister Robert Size told the court.

Pridgeon denied being involved in taking the two children but did not deny helping them, he said.

The Crown’s case is that Pridgeon, when he helped the mother and children, did so as part of a conspiracy regarding court proceedings, Mr. Size said.

“You are going to have to decide whether that is what Dr Pridgeon and the others in fact did or intended to do when they helped,” he added.

“He perceived evidence ... that they (the children) were being sexually abused and did nothing more than help them avoid the person that he perceived to be the abuser,” Mr. Size said.

Mr. Size asked why a GP from Grafton put himself at risk to help and provide financial support while asking nothing in return.

“These are the issues that the defence say should be foremost in your minds as the Crown presents its case.”

Greer and O'Dea, who are self-represented, are due to make their openings on Feb. 7.

The jury trial before Judge Vicki Loury is expected to run for up to four weeks.

Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)