'Worst nightmare': Robert Hughes sex assaults trial begins

Being tried for sexually and indecently assaulting young girls is the ''worst nightmare'' of television star Robert Hughes, a man who was once ''as popular as the current prime minister of the day'', his lawyer has told a Sydney court.

The prosecution says the 65-year-old former Hey Dad! star is guilty of 11 child-sex charges in relation to multiple incidents in the mid- to late-1980s.

At the opening of his trial in Downing Centre District Court on Monday, Crown prosecutor Gina O'Rourke said that, on two separate occasions between January 1984 and April 1985, Hughes had non-consensual sexual intercourse with a girl aged 14 or 15, who was sleeping over at the star's North Shore home.

On both occasions Hughes allegedly came into the room late at night, knelt down beside the young girl's bed and digitally penetrated her. The jury heard that the actor licked the side of his victim's face on the first occasion, before leaving her crying in the bed.

Ms O'Rourke said the second alleged victim was a girl between six and eight years old who says she was indecently assaulted by Hughes on four separate occasions between March 1985 and May 1986.

One incident allegedly involved Hughes coming into the room where the child and another girl were sleeping, walking between their two beds and whispering to the first child ''c'mon''.

The girl rolled over and Hughes allegedly pulled down the doona, took her hand and forced her to masturbate him.

Afterwards, Hughes allegedly told his victim she was a ''good girl''.

''He then handed her her teddy and said, 'Here's your teddy, go back to sleep','' Ms O'Rourke told the court.

Approximately seven months later, Hughes allegedly struck again, indecently assaulting a nine-year-old girl twice during a trip to Manly by forcing her to swim between his legs while deliberately exposing his penis.

The 10th charge involved a 15-year-old girl who allegedly came to Hughes seeking advice about becoming an actor.

Hughes indecently assaulted the girl during the course of an alleged infatuation that lasted some months and included sending her a dozen long-stemmed red roses on her 16th birthday.

The remaining charge related to an indecent assault that allegedly took place behind the set of Hey Dad!, when Hughes allegedly exposed his penis to a young actor.

Ms O'Rourke said the actor was lying on the ground behind the wall of the set, drawing, when Hughes came behind the same wall, looked at her and faced a full-length mirror.

''The accused made eye contact with the complainant, unbuckled and pulled down his pants and pulled down his underpants over his buttocks, exposing his penis,'' Ms O'Rourke said.

''He then swayed his hips from side to side, making his penis sway. A short time later he pulled his shorts and underpants up before the complainant ran from the area and complained to another actor.''

The court heard that a number of the young girls who were indecently or sexually assaulted complained to their parents about what had happened.

However, it was not until March 2010, when one of the women made a number of allegations on commercial television and in a popular women's magazine, that a police strike force was set up, leading to Hughes being charged and extradited to Australia from his home in London.

''Ladies and gentlemen, this is Robert Lindsay Hughes' worst nightmare,'' the actor's solicitor Greg Walsh said.

''You can readily ascertain that these people [who have made the allegations] have been paid large sums for publicly making the allegations against Mr Hughes.

''You have heard the terms 'rumour' and 'innuendo.' What about this man who was probably as popular as the current prime minister of the day? Everybody knew him. It is important that you don't make up your mind until you have all the evidence.''

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