Dawson’s health issue during teen sex trial
Convicted murderer and former Sydney schoolteacher Chris Dawson will fight allegations he had a sexual relationship with one of his teenage students at trial, but he can only sit for a maximum of three hours a day with regular breaks, a court has been told.
The 74-year-old has been charged with one count of carnal knowledge by a teacher, relating to an alleged relationship with a girl aged between 10 and 17 in the 1980s.
Dawson was sentenced in December to 24 years in jail over the murder of his wife Lynette Simms.
Following on from the lengthy trial in the second half of 2022, Dawson will now face a fresh fight in the NSW District Court on Monday.
The matter was briefly mentioned in court on Tuesday. Dawson’s public defender Claire Wasley told the court there was a fitness issue.
“The reason it was listed was because Mr Dawson may only be able to sit for two hours a day which would cause issues with the timeframe of the trial,” Ms Wasley said.
However, the court was told a doctor had now said Dawson could sit for three hours a day – but he will need a 15-minute break every hour.
“If he sits for three hours a day with a 15-minute break … it will not cause any difficulty in completing the trial in the two-week estimate,” Ms Wasley said.
Dawson’s cognitive and physical problems have been aired during his Supreme Court trial, where it was revealed he had been diagnosed with dementia.
The court was previously told Dawson showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain condition often suffered by people who sustain head injuries playing contact sports.
Crown prosecutors allege Dawson began a relationship with the student while he was a sports teacher at a public high school on Sydney’s northern beaches.
The student was allegedly 16 at the time, while Dawson was aged in his 30s.
The former Newtown Jets rugby league player denies the charge.
Last month, the NSW District Court allowed for Dawson’s fate to be decided by a judge rather than a jury given the case’s likely publicity.
The court was also told the trial was expected to run for just two weeks, and Dawson was to appear in person from Long Bay jail.
The carnal knowledge case will hinge on when Dawson first had sex with the student, with the Crown seeking to prove Dawson was still the girl’s teacher at the time.
Dawson’s murder trial was also heard in front of a judge after his defence argued the pre-trial publicity meant a jury was unsuitable.
Justice Ian Harrison last year convicted Dawson of the murder of his wife, who vanished from their Bayview home in January 1982.
Over the past four decades, Dawson has consistently maintained his innocence.
Justice Harrison said the only explanation was that he killed his 33-year-old wife to be with the young student.
He was found to have killed his wife just weeks after he had unsuccessfully attempted to run off and start a new life in Queensland.
“(The crime) was neither spontaneous nor unavoidable,” Justice Harrison said.
He described Dawson’s crime as one of “self-indulgent brutality”.
Dawson will first be eligible for parole in August 2040, with Justice Harrison saying it is likely he will die in prison.
His lawyers have lodged an intention to appeal the guilty verdict.