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Former NRL star Jarryd Hayne’s long wait for third trial

Former NRL star Jarryd Hayne faces another year-long wait for his third sexual assault trial as a judge refused his application for the proceedings to be held in Newcastle.

Mr Hayne has turned to high-profile barrister Margaret Cunneen SC to defend him as he faces a third trial over allegations he sexual assaulted a woman in Newcastle in 2018.

Solicitor Angela Cook on Monday appeared in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court where she applied on behalf of Mr Hayne for the upcoming trial to be held in Newcastle.

Mr Hayne, who was consistently denied the allegations, watched proceedings via videolink.

The court heard that it was Mr Hayne’s wish that the matter be listed in Newcastle, arguing that any trial should be held where the alleged offence occurred.

“He wants the trial in Newcastle, that is the District Court where the matters were last heard,” Ms Cook told the court.

Crown prosecutor Stephanie Lind opposed the application, saying that a third trial would be able to be held sooner if it were to take place in Sydney.

Ms Lind proposed several trial dates in Sydney, one as early as July.

However Judge James Bennett said there was no availability for a three-week District Court trial in Sydney until February next year because of the backlog of cases due to Covid.

Margaret Cunneen SC
Camera IconMargaret Cunneen SC is set to defend Jarryd Hayne during his third sexual assault trial. Sam Ruttyn. Credit: News Corp Australia

Further complicating matter was the availability of Ms Cunneen, who is considered one of Sydney’s top barristers and whose services are in high demand.

Judge Bennett ruled that the trial should be held in Sydney.

He listed Mr Hayne’s trial to be held at Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court starting on March 6 next year.

Ms Cunneen made a name for herself when she prosecuted the rapist Bilal Skaf and his fellow gang members in the early 2000s.

Since becoming a defence lawyer she has been involved in several high-profile cases including defending Chinese film producer Jing Wang, who was acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman at a Sydney hotel.

She also defended former William Tyrrell lead detective Gary Jubelin when he was found guilty of illegally recording four conversations during the police investigation into the toddler’s disappearance.

Camera IconFormer NRL star Jarryd Hayne was released from jail in February. NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage. Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Hayne was last year found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman at her Newcastle home on NRL grand final night in 2018.

The former Dally M winner and ex-NFL convert sat in Cooma Correctional Centre for nine months before the state’s highest court, the Court of Criminal Appeal, quashed his conviction and ordered a retrial.

Mr Hayne walked out of prison on February 15 in time to celebrate his 34th birthday.

Downing Centre Court
Camera IconJarryd Hayne’s lawyers have appeared in court asking for his third sexual assault trial to be moved to Newcastle. NCA NewsWire/Christian Gilles. Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Hayne has twice faced a jury over the allegations – his first trial in Newcastle in late 2020 ended in a hung jury.

Following a second in March last year, a jury took three days to deliberate and find him guilty of two counts of sexual assault.

He was subsequently sentenced by Judge Helen Syme to five years and nine months jail, with a non-parole period of three years and eight months,before his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal.

The court heard earlier this month the Director of Public Prosecutions had elected to try Mr Hayne a third time.

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