A former Aboriginal tour operator who was sentenced to 12 years jail for raping and sexually assaulting women under the guise of traditional rituals has been cleared of his charges following an appeal which found a miscarriage of justice occurred during his trial. Joseph Luke “Joey” Williams, 60, was jailed in May 2021 for 11 counts of sexual penetration without consent and one count of indecent assault following an 11-day trial at Albany District Court. An 11-person jury found he was guilty of the 12 charges and not guilty of one count of sexual penetration without consent and one count of indecent assault. Mr Williams ran the award-winning Denmark-based cultural tour company Poornarti Aboriginal Tours and was described on the company’s website as an Aboriginal elder, cultural adviser and lore man who had “mastered the ancient technique of vibrational healing passed on to him through his ancestral lineage”. Mr Williams was alleged to have committed sexual assaults against six victims ranging in age from 18 to 34, between 2010 and 2014, in Denmark, Stirling Range National Park, Perth and Broome. During the trial, State prosecutor Beau Sertorio proved the Noongar man abused his cultural knowledge for his own sexual gratification and manipulated the alleged victims, who were all Caucasian, to submit to the sexual assaults under the false pretence that he was conducting traditional Aboriginal healing rituals. The State’s case was that some of the alleged assaults occurred without the victims’ consent, and in instances where the victims may have allowed the sexual acts to occur, the State said their consent was obtained by “deceit or fraudulent means” and not freely and voluntarily given. In the same month that he was sentenced, Mr Williams filed a Supreme Court appeal notice against his convictions. This appeal was heard over a year later, on July 19, 2022, and Mr Williams was released on bail pending its outcome. On December 2, the appeal was granted by the Supreme Court, and Mr Williams’ convictions were set aside with a retrial ordered before a different judge. The appeal was successful on five grounds and found there had been a miscarriage of justice, and as a result, Mr Williams did not get a fair trial. The appeal found Mr Sertorio’s cross-examination of Mr Williams suggested that aspects of his evidence had been recently invented by him, and this unfairly invited the jury to see parts of his evidence as untrue because they were inconsistent with what he had told his defence lawyer. It was also found that the trial’s judge, Christopher Stevenson, had made an incorrect decision on a question of law when directing the jury in how they should consider whether Mr Williams had deceitfully obtained consent from the alleged victims, and he had failed to direct the jury on how they could reason that Mr Williams’ evidence was a recent invention. Another miscarriage of justice had occurred when Judge Stevenson made two comments to the jury during their deliberations which he should not have. The appeal found a further miscarriage of justice had occurred when Mr Williams’ defence lawyer Bruno Illari did not cross-examine the alleged victims consistently with Mr Williams’ instructions. Following his successful appeal of his convictions, Mr Williams’ charges were progressing through the Perth District Court for a retrial. But in a hearing to list a trial date at Perth District Court on June 23 before Chief Judge Julie Wager, the Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the charges against him. The Office for the Director of Public Prosecutions said they had formed the view that continuing with Mr Williams’ prosecution was no longer in the public interest, following consultation with everyone involved in the matter. This brought an end to a saga which gripped Albany, from when Mr Williams’ was first charged in late 2019, to an 11-day trial which saw each of the alleged victims give evidence. During the trial, the women detailed their stories of seeking Mr Williams’ help with their personal problems including fertility issues, trauma, grief and stalking. He was alleged to have sexually assaulted them while pretending that his actions would help their issues, including some offences which involved penetration by rocks which he claimed had supernatural healing powers. Mr Illari argued that the sexual acts were either consensual, did not happen in the way the women claimed, or did not happen at all. Mr Williams’ girlfriend and three of his children gave evidence as part of the trial. Mr Sertorio drew on expert testimony from three female Great Southern Noongar elders who testified that Mr Williams’ actions were not cultural rituals, with one of the elders labelling his acts “disgusting”. Following eight hours of deliberation by the jury, the 11-day trial ended in Mr Williams convicted of the 12 charges.