A former soldier accused of running a “sex cult” in regional NSW where he lived with six polyamorous partners will finally be released after 21 months behind bars.
James-Robert Davis appeared in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday for his third application for bail in a matter of weeks after he was charged with 40 serious offences related to the alleged House of Cadifor cult near Armidale in northern NSW.
He has been in custody for close to 21 months after he was arrested in March 2021.
The ex-Australian Defence Force soldier was originally facing three charges over allegedly keeping a woman in sexual servitude, but the charges were withdrawn six months later.
Justice Mark Ierace was told Mr Davis was granted bail in the District Court on November 1 but was refused bail over a different set of matters in the Local Court the same week.
The bail-refused charges were brought to the Supreme Court on Wednesday and are related to the allegations of four women. The charges include multiple counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, intentionally distributing an intimate image without consent and intimidation.
Defence lawyer Abigail Bannister told the court that many allegations occurred in the “context of a highly sexualised relationship in the BDSM and kink community”.
“Where there are public and private events and sexual events, glorification of sexual behaviour effectively staged and real,” Ms Bannister said.
Ms Bannister told the court that many alleged offences occurred in the “context of an obedient BDSM relationship”.
She said her client was unable to view the extensive brief of evidence due to “ongoing access issues”.
The court was told a documentarian followed Mr Davis around and filmed his life at the property with his permission, with defence counsel looking to use the videos as evidence in his Local Court hearings in February.
“The applicant is unable to properly and fairly prepare his defence for both hearings in February,” Ms Bannister said.
The court was previously told Mr Davis was under protective custody because of his former role as a prison guard and had only been able to access the prison computer for three to four hours a week.
He had been unable to provide detailed instructions to his lawyers or properly assess the “vast” evidence in order to defend his case, the court was told.
Giving his judgment on Thursday, Justice Ierace told the court that Mr Davis was seeking bail over 13 charges in the Local Court that are set down for two sets of hearings in February.
The first hearing will look at three counts of intentionally distribute intimate images without consent, while the second will fight five counts of common assault, three counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and two counts of intimidation.
Justice Ierace told the court that defence counsel “challenges the strength of the prosecution case”.
“The charges have to be understood in the context of an unusual series of relationships that the applicant was engaged in at the time. They were polyamorous in nature with a number of young women,” he said.
The court was told Mr Davis was a person of good character, did not have any prior criminal convictions and served in the Australian Army.
“Material is replete with suggestions that he guarded himself romantically and emotionally attached to a number of people at the one time,” Justice Ierace said.
While Justice Ierace conceded Mr Davis was facing a likely sentence of full-time imprisonment, he granted bail.
“In my view the strict conditions are required to mitigate risks to an acceptable level,” he said.
“I’m going to make a grant of bail but subject to conditions.
“Those conditions constitute home detention with the added assurance of electronic monitoring as well as strict conditions in relation to the applicant’s access to a mobile phone and the internet.”
Mr Davis also must not contact any complainants to witnesses in the case.
During the successful District Court application earlier this month, the court was told the nature of the case against Mr Davis had “completely changed” since his arrest following allegations from additional alleged victims.
The former prison guard is facing 26 charges before the District Court, including sexual intercourse without consent and torturing an animal.
He is also charged with illegally possessing prohibited firearms and ammunition. He is due to face trials in April and May.