In a dramatic turn in court proceedings, the three day hearing of former University of New England Vice Chancellor Professor Brigid Heywood’s assault charge has been interrupted by her legal team asking for a new judge.
Heywood’s legal team, led by senior counsel Jack Pappas, applied for the magistrate hearing her assault case to recuse himself, claiming magistrate Mark Richardson displayed a “lack of calmness and objectivity expected of a magistrate” and “unfairly cut short examination of the complainant”. The application followed an interaction on the first day of the hearing where the magistrate has accused Mr Pappas of bullying the witness.
The complainant is a teenager who had been involved in an Armidale Regional Council run International Women’s Day event in March 2022. It is alleged that at the event Heywood licked her finger and then rubbed her saliva on the cheek of the then 16 year old girl, while commenting on her skin colour. In an earlier court appearance in September, Heywood pleaded not guilty to charges of common assault and offensive behaviour near a public place or school.
The application for recusal was denied by Magistrate Richardson, who said he has demonstrated no bias before asking the defence to continue. Heywood’s legal team then indicated they would seek an appeal, which they have been ordered to lodge by midday today (Thursday).
During her testimony yesterday, the young victim described how her cheek was wet with Heywood’s spit after the incident and she had gone to the bathroom to wash it off. She also told how it had taken days for her to tell her parents about the incident, she felt degraded and belittled, and she had subsequently become depressed and required counselling.
The incident ironically began after the teenager approached Dr Brooke Kennedy, a local Indigenous woman, to thank her for talking about the racism she has experienced in Armidale.
Yesterday’s proceedings also heard that the security cameras at the Servies Club are very bad, with a police officer giving evidence describing it as ‘disgusting quality’.
Also revealed in the case so far is that Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall had written to the police in May 2022 urging them to “take urgent action” on the matter.
Heywood resigned from her $676,000 a year role as Vice-Chancellor (VC) at the University of New England on August 5 ending about three years in the top position. UNE’s Chancellor James Harris said in a statement at the time that Heywood had advised the University council that she strenuously denied there was any truth to the charges and would defend them. The University came under widespread criticism for not acting faster to remove Heywood. The new Vice Chancellor, Chris Moran, was announced in May of this year, almost a year after Heywood’s resignation.
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