NSW MP pleads not guilty to rape and indecent assaults

Chris Minns sworn in as NSW Premier

NSW MP and former state Liberal minister Gareth Ward has appeared in court to plead not guilty to sexual offending against a teenage boy and a man.

Ward, now an independent, was arraigned at Nowra District Court on Tuesday while counting in his south coast seat of Kiama showed he continued to extend his lead.

Police allege Ward indecently assaulted a 17-year-old boy at Meroo Meadow on NSW’s south coast in February 2013 and raping a 27-year-old man in Sydney in September 2015.

He has been charged with five criminal offences including sexual intercourse without consent, three counts of assault with indecency, and common assault which is an alternative charge to one of the indecency charges.

He has pleaded not guilty to all accounts.

The matter has been adjourned to Downing Centre District Court on April 3 while Ward’s bail continues.

The former Liberal minister was dumped from the party and suspended from parliament a year ago following the charges. He recontested Kiama as an independent MP.

Suspended members are excluded from parliamentary precincts and prohibited from participating in the house or committees under a separate standing order.

A parliamentary committee last May recommended Ward keep his salary and electorate office until a court determines whether he is guilty, arguing the crossbencher is entitled to a presumption of innocence.

On Tuesday, newly-sworn in Premier Chris Minns said Labor remained optimistic about clinching Kiama. He was asked if he would negotiate with Ward if he remained an MP, and if Labor would move to re-suspend him parliament.

“We’re not going to negotiate with him at all,” Mr Minns said.

“I want to wait and see what the outcome of the ballot is. We’re still very hopeful and I think in the commanding position to win that seat. I think that will be good for the parliament.”

According to the latest numbers from the ABC, Labor candidate Katelin McInerney has pulled ahead of Ward by about 700 votes. But Ms McInerney’s lead is quickly slipping away and ABC’s chief election analyst Antony Green said the seat would likely fall to the independent.

– with AAP

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter.
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.