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August 25, 2004

African court frees policeman on bail

From: The Age, Australia - Aug 25, 2004

By Fergus Shiel
Law Reporter
August 25, 2004

A Victorian policeman facing charges of having sex with a schoolgirl has been released on bail by a Sierra Leone court.

Before releasing Superintendent Peter Halloran, the court heard evidence from a colleague and housemate that Halloran had employed his alleged 14-year-old victim as a nanny.

Prosecution witness Madlay Cordwell told the court that she had seen the girl sitting by Halloran's bedside and later learnt that the girl had been living in their house.

Ms Cordwell said Halloran had told her he wanted to employ a nanny to care for his girlfriend's three-year-old son, who was visiting.

The alleged victim's two brothers, who along with Halloran faces charges of procuring the girl, were also released on bail.

Halloran, 56, a former head of the homicide squad, has been on unpaid leave from the Victoria Police since January working as a war crimes investigator for the United Nations.

He is charged with unlawful carnal knowledge, indecent assault and procuring an under-age girl between May 31 and June 3 at his home in Wilberforce, diplomatic quarter of Freetown, capital of the West African nation that emerged in 2002 from a decade of civil war that left about 50,000 dead.

Halloran was being held in the Pademba Road Prison just west of the centre of Freetown.

Before the hearing, Halloran's lawyer said he expected him to be quickly cleared.

Halloran pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Lawyer J. B. Jenkins-Johnston told The Age: "Mr Halloran is very, very firm that none of what is alleged actually happened."

Mr Jenkins-Johnston said his client had sought to employ his alleged victim as a nanny to care for the deaf child of a person that was coming to stay with him.

"The girl came to the house to familiarise herself and some woman living there, an Australian I think, seemed to get the wrong end of the stick," Mr Jenkins-Johnston said.

He said the alleged victim had changed her evidence repeatedly and her own family no longer supported her contradictory claims.

"There are so many contradictory statements that one really doesn't know what the truth is. I don't think Peter would be so stupid," he said.

"The prosecution has to prove what is alleged and I don't know how they are going to do that. I don't think they have the evidence to do that."

UN and diplomatic sources in Freetown told The Age that there was no credible or verifiable evidence against Halloran, and they expressed dismay at local newspaper claims, repeated here, that he had specifically asked a colleague to find him an under-age housegirl and promised to meet her educational costs and pay her family a monthly allowance. "I was shocked that (Freetown newspaper) the Concord Times produced that trash and that it was repeated by a newspaper in Australia," one source said.

Australia's high commissioner for Ghana, Don Foley, visited Halloran in prison last Friday.

Halloran was said to be well, although recuperating from pneumonia.

He is now receiving consular services from the British high commission in Freetown.

Sources in Freetown said that prisoners in the Pademba Road Prison were "virtually cut off from the outside world", permitted only one 30-minute family visit a month and no phone calls.

But they said Halloran was being held in relative comfort in the prison infirmary, owing to his recent illness, and was receiving regular visits from colleagues and consular officers.

"(Sierra Leone authorities) have also agreed that Halloran's colleagues can visit and bring him food, clothes and toiletries," one source said.

Copyright © 2004. The Age Company Ltd.