News State Victoria News Prisoner star cleared of sex charges

Prisoner star cleared of sex charges

The actor was happy with the results.
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Prisoner star Maggie Kirkpatrick has broken down in tears as a judge cleared her of indecently assaulting a young fan in the 1980s.

The actor, 74, said outside court she felt relief and thanked her fans and the acting community for standing by her.

“It’s been rather difficult but I’m very happy with the result,” Kirkpatrick told reporters after her appeal was upheld in the Victorian County Court.

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In August, Kirkpatrick was found guilty of two charges of indecent assault and one charge of committing an act of gross indecency with a child under 16 in 1984 after she brought a young fan home for dinner.

The girl, then 14, was a resident at a psychiatric hospital and met Kirkpatrick through another resident, who also worked on the TV show Prisoner.

Kirkpatrick became a household name for her role on the show as prison warder Joan “The Freak” Ferguson.

She told her appeal hearing on Monday she had invited the girl home for dinner to give a disturbed person “a little home life”.

“I saw it as a kindness,” Kirkpatrick said.

In May 2013 the fan told police that after dinner Kirkpatrick had taken her upstairs to a bedroom and indecently assaulted her.

Kirkpatrick has maintained that she sent the girl home in a taxi after catching her stealing alcohol.

Judge Geoffrey Chettle on Tuesday said that in 1984 the complainant was a very disturbed young woman.

“She was clearly vulnerable and unstable,” Judge Chettle said.

The complainant was a careful and consistent witness, but her evidence was not independently supported, Judge Chettle said.

He also found inconsistencies between her account of events from that time, and medical records and evidence given by a psychiatrist.

He said many of the inconsistencies were not central, but they indicated an unreliable memory.

Judge Chettle said Kirkpatrick’s reason for inviting the young girl for dinner without a chaperone was consistent with character evidence that she is a caring woman who had helped other young people.

He said he was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the offending had occurred.

Kirkpatrick sobbed as she hugged supporters after learning her appeal was upheld and the charges overturned.

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