A pastor of a Hunter Valley-based Christian church has been committed to stand trial for the alleged indecent assault of his three young granddaughters.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was in his 60s when the alleged offences occurred in October and November last year.
He appeared in Newcastle Local Court yesterday with a female supporter, and his solicitor, Warwick Hill, waived the right to enter a plea to 15 counts of indecently assaulting a person under the age of 16 and two counts of sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 10.
Magistrate Mark Buscombe committed the matter for trial and the man will appear in Newcastle District Court on September 29.
According to a police statement, the accused is the senior pastor of the church in which the families of the three children are members.
Crown prosecutors will allege the accused was in a significant position of authority over all three children at the time of these offences.
They say the parents of three alleged victims and their siblings are vigilant about what they are exposed to through television, leaving them sexually naive.
The offending began when the accused’s daughter was taken to hospital on October 13, the court heard.
The accused and his wife looked after her children for the night and the first alleged indecent assault occurred on a seven-year-old girl.
The offending allegedly continued against another seven-year-old girl and a nine-year-old girl until November 26, when the girls spoke to their sisters about the assaults.
The girls’ parents were told about the allegations on November 30 and immediately confronted the accused.
Police were notified on December 1 and a provisional apprehended violence order was put in place to protect the girls.
The children were interviewed by specialist police on December 7 and two days later police executed a search warrant at the man’s home and arrested him.
Mr Buscombe granted the man conditional bail and continued the interim AVO until December 20, when the man will appear for hearing in Newcastle Local Court.