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Man accused of slavery lived ‘strange’ but not illegal life, court told

Defence barrister Ian Lloyd, QC, had argued that while his client lived a “strange life … there was nothing illegal about it”. He said the polyamorous relationships were “completely consensual”.

“The major complainant only years later made her complaints which are now being categorised by the AFP as slavery,” he said. “My client’s defence is that the lifestyle he led with the major complainant … could never have been categorised in law as slavery.”

James Robert Davis was arrested in Armidale and charged with three slavery and sexual servitude offences, under modern slavery laws.

James Robert Davis was arrested in Armidale and charged with three slavery and sexual servitude offences, under modern slavery laws.Credit:AFP

He said the allegation that the woman, who is the subject of the three charges, “was being pimped out” and forced into prostitution would be categorically denied.

“There’s no doubt my client was in a relationship with this lady, but she has grossly exaggerated things in her assertions to the court,” Mr Lloyd said.

He said the lengthy statement from the AFP suggested she was forced to wear a “slave collar” that she could not take off but she also stated she removed the collar when she attended work training elsewhere. Mr Lloyd said the collars were “affectations” and “part of play-acting”, and all the women had Allen keys to take them off when they wanted to.

He noted that, while Mr Davis was not charged with any assault offences, the complainant alleged she was assaulted and suffered a broken eardrum.

Mr Lloyd said that, according to medical notes before the court, a doctor noted the woman “was wrestling with her boyfriend” and his client’s defence would be “he was training her in mixed martial arts”.

“She, of course, puts a different spin on this,” he said.

Mr Lloyd also said that Mr Davis had been in custody for 3½ months. The barrister did not expect the case to leave the Local Court this year, and anticipated a lengthy trial in 2023.

He said a 36-page statement from a journalist referred to 180 hours of filming of Mr Davis, which the defence would want played to the jury “because it shows that none of these ladies were slaves”. At four hours shown a day, the video itself would take nine weeks, the barrister said.

Mr Lloyd said Mr Davis’ sister-in-law had offered a surety of $30,000.

Crown prosecutor Rebekah Rodger said concerns about Mr Davis’ access to firearms had escalated after the discovery of the items recently hidden or disposed of on the Armidale property.

In opposing bail, she said some witnesses who had given signed statements to police since Mr Davis’ arrest, “may be the subject of retribution from the applicant when previously there was no cause or any risk of violence by the applicant towards those witnesses”.

She submitted the complainant had been “forced into sex work” by Mr Davis who allegedly retained all the payment for the services.

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Ms Rodger said there was also evidence of “complete subjugation”, with the woman allegedly held in a cage against her will and required to wait by the front door of the premises until Mr Davis’ return.

“The Crown case is that the allegations by [the woman] go well beyond the parameters of what is acceptable in terms of BDSM, in terms of appropriate,” she said.

A trial would hear evidence from the BDSM community regarding safe words and red zones, the prosecutor added.

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