24 October 2022

Horse rider convicted of child sex offences in South East NSW has sentencing delayed again

| Albert McKnight
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Man standing near a lake

Neil Duncan, a former Bega Valley man, was found guilty of several child sex crimes. Photo: Facebook.

CONTENT WARNING: This story addresses childhood sexual abuse.

A formerly well-regarded member of the horse riding community found guilty of child sex offences has been insulted by his peers, faced incorrect media reporting and allegedly been rejected by banks, a court has heard.

Earlier this year, Neil Duncan was convicted of committing child sex offences against three young victims in Bega and the Snowy Mountains. He was scheduled to be sentenced by the NSW District Court on Monday (24 October).

But on the day, the 67-year-old appeared in court over audio-visual link from his home in Timbumburi, near Tamworth, because his doctors said he was not fit enough to travel for his sentencing.

This meant the proceedings were delayed for the second time due to his health issues, but some legal submissions still went ahead.

The Crown prosecutor said Duncan had been “very well regarded in the horse riding community,” while Judge Robyn Tupman noted, “he’s still got his referees who think he’s a good bloke”.

But a short video played to the court that had been taken inside a pub or club showed several people sitting around a table laughing and clapping their hands while making insulting comments about Duncan.

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Also, Judge Tupman said at one stage media had incorrectly asserted Duncan breached his bail by going to a pony club meeting in Narrabri.

“That is incorrect and has never been corrected,” she said.

She said he’d then had a bail condition revoked so he could not attend such meetings, which meant he’d been prevented from attending the events due to incorrect media reporting.

But the prosecutor argued this did not rise to a level where the judge could find there had been extra-curial punishment due to media reporting and it was not because of media that he was arrested, but police.

Barrister Richard Pontello SC, who has previously said his client “certainly won’t answer to a kangaroo court comprised of the media or anybody else”, also said there had never been any meaningful reporting in the media about what Duncan had actually done.

In June 2022, a jury found the former Bega Valley guilty of eight counts of intentionally sexually touching a child between the ages of 10 and 16 after a trial in the Queanbeyan District Court.

The crimes took place between February and November 2019, with six offences at a camp in the Kosciuszko National Park and two at a property in Bega.

Justice Tupman previously said none of the offences occurred in connection with pony club activities.

On Monday, the judge said there had been a recent incident where Duncan had gone to an agricultural show and police arrived and claimed they could arrest him for being at such a show.

But she said this was incorrect and there had never been a bail condition that he not go to ag shows.

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Mr Pontello also alleged banks didn’t want to do business with his client and would close his accounts, but admitted he did not have evidence to support this claim.

Bail was continued and Duncan’s case was adjourned for him to go to Sydney, or at least Tamworth, for sentencing on 4 November.

He already had his sentencing delayed in August because of his cancer treatment, with the court then being told the surgery for his prostate cancer had been booked for September.

Also, while bail continued after the verdicts were delivered, an attempt to revoke it failed in the NSW Supreme Court in July due to his health issues.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 02 6247 2525, The Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT on 6280 0900, Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. In an emergency call 000.

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