'Enormous' brief of evidence against accused child snatchers
THE Grafton doctor accused of running a child-stealing ring is facing the largest brief of evidence the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution has ever seen.
Dr William Russell Pridgeon has been accused of helping finance a syndicate that stole and hid children from one parent on behalf of another parent.
At Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday, Dr Pridgeon's lawyer Andrew Owens said his client was under "onerous" bail conditions that had seen police threaten to arrest him multiple times.
Mr Owens said Dr Pridgeon and Patrick Finbar McGarry O'Dea have been accused of masterminding the operation.
Prosecutor Dearne Firth told the court more than 40 gigabytes of data had already been disclosed but a forensic investigation into computers still needed to be done.
Ms Firth said prosecutors needed another month to gather that information and distribute it to the accused parties' legal teams before the case could progress through the courts.
Mr Owens opposed the delay and said prosecutors had already had six months to investigate computers and did not see how another month would be of assistance.
But Ms Firth said the amount of information being investigated was enormous.
"The amount of forensic material is the most seen be the Commonwealth DPP," she said.
"I have over 40 gigabytes of evidence already on a USB stick and more is to come."
Mr Owens said the delay would impact Dr Pridgeon and Mr O'Dea due to the bail conditions placed on them.
He said despite Dr Pridgeon having permission under his bail to visit friends in Queensland, police had pulled him over four times and threatened to arrest him when he drove across the Tweed.
Mr Owens said the GPS monitors Dr Pridgeon and Mr O'Dea had to wear took two hours to charge and could not be removed, meaning they are forced to spend long periods of time sitting next to a power point.
But the court ruled the significant amount of evidence needed to be completed and granted the four-week adjournment. Mr Owens said Dr Pridgeon and Mr O'Dea would be in court in a fortnight to try to get their bail altered.
Outside court, Queensland-based child safety advocate Hetty Johnston threw her support behind the accused.
Ms Johnston, who will run as an independent senate candidate at the federal election, said Dr Pridgeon, Mr O'Dea and other co-accused believed they were trying to help children.
Ms Johnson admitted the child stealing charges the group faced sounded "horrible" but said if she believed the courts were not protecting her child she would take matters into her own hands.
"I would grab my child and I would run and hope they never found me," she said.