- Laurie Nowell
- From: Sunday Herald Sun
- January 24, 2010 12:00AM
A MELBOURNE man is bringing a historic private criminal prosecution against his ex-wife accusing her of perjury, assault and making a threat to kill.
The legal action, believed to be a first for Victoria, will set a controversial precedent and could open the floodgates to similar cases.
"Bill", whose identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons, is alleging his wife deliberately lied when she made allegations that he had sexually abused their children.
His affidavit was accepted by the Melbourne Magistrates' Court last week, a hearing date has been set for next month and a summons was due to be served on Friday.
The case stems from a criminal trial during which Bill spent two years fighting charges based on his wife's allegations.
He was eventually acquitted, but the ordeal cost him his job, his home and about $450,000 in lost income and legal costs. The case is also based on similar accusations of sexual abuse of their children made by the ex-wife during a bitter Family Court battle.
The Family Court judge found Bill's ex-wife to be violent, untruthful, lacking moral values and responsible for the psychological and emotional abuse of her children -but still gave her custody of the two girls, now aged 9 and 11, because they had become estranged from their father.
By contrast, Bill was found to have shown "laudable forbearance in the face of the most challenging circumstances".
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show about 2.5 million Australians are denied access to family because of family law proceedings, and about 680,000 fathers see their children as little as once a year.
ABS figures also show 700,000 children have no meaningful contact with one of their non-custodial parents -- mostly fathers.
Bill said yesterday he was bringing the case because he felt betrayed by the justice system.
"The Family Court have cut me off from my children effectively because of false evidence brought by my wife," Bill said.
"In 2005, she went to the police and made the allegations and then prepared the children on what they should say. The result was my kids were taken away from me.
"I proved my own innocence and that she had lied on both occasions - in the criminal trial and in the Family Court matter.
"My life with my kids was destroyed. If people can lie in court and hurt others by their utterances and statements, what is the point of the law?"
The case will intensify the current national debate over the operation of the Family Court and the principle of shared parenting, which is under attack by women's groups and is being reviewed by the Rudd Government.
Bill's ex-wife is facing charges of perjury, assault and making a threat to kill.
The charges allege that she knowingly and wilfully made 10 pages of false statements to police in September 2005 and perjured herself by repeating the allegations in a sworn affidavit during a Family Court hearing in 2008.
She is also accused of threatening to kill Bill in 2004 and of assaulting him with chopsticks and fingernails in 2000.
Law Institute of Victoria chief executive Michael Brett Young said private criminal prosecutions were rare, but not unheard of.
"This man will have to prove his case, like anyone else, in the criminal courts," Mr Young said.