Australian police officer Superintendent Peter Halloran was yesterday cleared by the Sierra Leone Court of Appeal of sexually assaulting a teenage girl while working at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Halloran had been facing 18 months in jail after he was convicted in February.
The two-one decision in his favour by the three-judge appeal court came yesterday.
The decision was supposed to have been delivered in early September, but undisclosed judicial reasons had delayed the judgement.
Judicial sources revealed to Awareness Times that the defence lawyers for Halloran submitted a 200-page document arguing why the conviction should be overturned whilst the prosecution only tabled a very short response.
An Australian Queen’s Counsel Lex Lasry, who was on the Halloran appeal team although he was not given permission to address the Sierra Leone court, told journalists that the conviction could not stand up to even basic scrutiny at law.
“There was simply no evidence,” he said. “His original conviction was a clear travesty of justice and flew in the face of the principles of law.” Reports also indicate that hours before he heard the decision, Mr Halloran had also told journalists that he believed he would be vindicated on appeal.
“There is every indication that I was given fair hearing. I know that if the case is decided on the facts, my name will be cleared,” he reportedly stated. Attempts by Awareness Times to contact members of the Prosecution team for their comments on the verdict proved futile yesterday. Mr Halloran said he was frustrated by the constant delays in the appeal court handing down its decision. Speaking on the line to Australia, he stated that “People who have never been here [Sierra Leone] could not possibly understand the process.”
Mr Halloran was charged in August last year and jailed for nearly a month - spending most of his time in the prison hospital - before he was freed on bail.
He was convicted by a judge sitting alone, even though the alleged victim gave several different versions of events in written statements and then later gave sworn testimony at the trial that there had been no assault. The victim claimed that she was pressured into making the complaint by Halloran’s Australian policewoman subordinate named Mandy Cordwell.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.