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WA MP to fight child sexual abuse charges

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A Western Australian independent MP accused of sexually abusing an eight-year-old girl has indicated he will fight the charges.

James Hayward briefly faced Perth Magistrates Court on Monday charged with multiple offences, including persistent sexual conduct.

The 52-year-old resigned from the WA Nationals after the charges were laid in December but has continued to sit in the upper house.

Mr Hayward’s lawyer Amanda Blackburn said on Monday her client intended to plead not guilty to the charges.

She requested his bail conditions be amended so he would no longer have to report to police in his home town of Australind on Wednesdays because it would interfere with his attending parliament.

Ms Blackburn also asked that a requirement for Mr Hayward to report to police on the weekend be dropped.

“It just seems a bit over the top to me, given his record,” she said.

Chief Magistrate Steven Heath granted the requests and set down a state committal hearing for April 4.

Mr Hayward, who is still required to report to police twice a week, declined to comment outside court.

He attended every sitting day last week in the WA Legislative Council as parliament resumed, having been largely absent during December’s sittings.

Mr Hayward, who was elected to represent the South West region in the Legislative Council, had previously served as the Nationals’ federal vice-president.

He had also worked as a local councillor in Bunbury and a television journalist, and served as the Nationals’ state president.

The WA Nationals suspended Mr Hayward’s party membership after the charges emerged.

Opposition Leader Mia Davies urged Mr Hayward at the time to quit parliament, saying her parliamentary colleagues agreed he should not retain his seat.

She has since declined to comment on the matter.

Individuals convicted of persistent sexual conduct in WA face a maximum prison term of 20 years.

-AAP

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