Sarah Monahan speaks out as Hey Dad co-star Robert Hughes gets parole

Hey Dad! child star speaks out after paedophile on-screen dad is granted parole and set to be deported to the UK

  • Robert Hughes, 73, was jailed in Australia in 2014 for 10 years and nine months
  • Convicted of 10 charges of sexually abusing four young girls in 1980s and 1990s
  • Parole board on Thursday decided to release him June 14 after two failed tries
  • He will be deported to the UK where he will live with his wife Robyn Gardiner
  • Hughes starred as Martin Kelly in the TV comedy Hey Dad! from 1987 to 1994

The child actress sexually abused by her on-screen dad believes he’ll never apologise for his heinous actions as she prepares to move on with her life.

Disgraced Hey Dad! actor and convicted child sex offender Robert Hughes will be released from jail on parole within two weeks after following a decision by the NSW State Parole Authority. 

The actor who played Martin Kelly in the Aussie comedy sitcom has spent the last eight years behind bars after a jury found him guilty of 10 charges of sexual and indecent acts perpetrated on four young girls aged between seven and 15 in the 1980s and 1990s.

The news is bittersweet for victim Sarah Monahan, who played Hughes’ youngest daughter Jenny on the hit show. She recently travelled from the US to attend his recent parole hearing.

While she’s emotional and angry about Hughes’ release, she’s also relieved.

Hughes was jailed after a jury found him guilty of 10 charges of sexual and indecent acts perpetrated on four young girls aged between seven and 15 in the 1980s and 1990s

‘He will never say sorry and I’m fine with that. He’ll never say it. I’m not going to beg for it; I’m not going to ask for it,’ she told A Current Affair.

‘There’s just been so much over so long and I guess it is now … it’s just … it’s over.’ 

Monahan now just wants to wipe Hughes from her life.

‘This has consumed my entire life for the last 12 years, 14 years, so I guess I’ll have to find a new me now,’ she said.

‘I don’t want to be a victim anymore.’

Hughes, 73, was sentenced in 2014 to a maximum 10 years and nine months in prison, which is due to expire in January 2025.

‘Parole is granted. The offender is to be released not later than June 14, 2022,’ the parole authority said on Thursday.

However, the authority noted in its  13 page judgement the ‘profound and deleterious effects on the victims…continue to this day and will probably be lifelong consequences’.

Victim Sarah Monahan who played Hughes’ youngest daughter Jenny on the hit show and recently travelled from the US to attend his recent parole hearing

Disgraced Hey Dad! actor and convicted child sex offender Robert Hughes will be released from jail on parole after multiple failed attempts

‘It must be particularly galling for the victims to observe the offender’s continued and obstinate denials in the face of compelling and overwhelming evidence from multiple witnesses,’ Judge Frearson said in his determination.   

The parole authority noted Hughes continued to ‘categorically deny’ committing all of his crimes, but still assessed him as medium-low risk of reoffending.

‘He demonstrates no insight and apportions blame to the victims. Poor victim empathy is said not to increase his risk of sexual recidivism,’ it said.

The other key reasons for release were said to be Hughes’ ineligibility for sex offender programs together with his family support and accommodation in the UK.

‘Upon deportation, there will be a considerable level of governance and accountability. The offender and his wife appear committed to appropriate psychological intervention,’ the parole authority said.

‘A reasonable prospect of appropriate intervention better serves community safety than the certainty of complete absence of intervention. 

‘It is inevitable that at some point the offender will be released into the community.’

Hughes will live with his wife Robyn Gardiner in the UK. Ms Gardiner told the parole authority she will keep him away from children when unsupervised.

Hughes starred as Martin Kelly (second from left) in the TV comedy Hey Dad! from 1987-1994

‘The offender’s wife expressed her intention to continue to provide emotional support upon his release,’ the authority wrote in its decision.

‘Additionally, she advised that she has arranged post release accommodation for the offender to reside with her upon his eventual return to London.

‘Whilst she believes in his innocence, she expressed her intention to ensure that the offender does not have unsupervised contact with children. 

‘She advised that she intends to encourage him to engage in psychological counselling.’  

The authority noted arguments against Hughes’ parole included his ‘continuing to deny the offences; the support of his wife in his denial; the fact that he is untreated; he will not be supervised; his denials will not be challenged, and his sexual offending will not be addressed.’ 

Hughes’ former on-screen daughter and victim Ms Monahan was present for the Parramatta parole hearing last week and said she wanted the child sex offender to know she was present.

‘He’s an old man and he’s frail but they don’t change, and he’s a denier, he still thinks he hasn’t done anything,’ she told reporters last week.

She said Hughes ‘looked really, really old’ during the hearing and encouraged other child sexual abuse victims to confront their rapists in court.

‘Anybody who’s going through it and they’re scared to go in to the court and see them, absolutely do it because it takes all their power away,’ she said.

‘I wanted him to see me… and that I wasn’t scared anymore.

‘On the one hand I’d prefer him to stay in jail where he’s not hurting kids and on the other hand it’s like, just let him go, let him be someone else’s problem and then I don’t have to deal with it anymore.’

His former on-screen daughter and victim Sarah Monahan (pictured) was present for the Parramatta parole hearing last week and said she wanted the child sex offender to know she was present

While allegations against Hughes were raised in the 1990s, it took a paid television interview by Ms Monahan in 2010 to spark a broad police investigation into claims of sexual misconduct by the actor.

His victims included a family friend, friends of his daughter, and Ms Monahan.

Hughes made his third attempt at parole following two failed attempts. His minimum sentence of six years made him eligible for parole on April 6, 2020.

Judge Peter Zahra, who died suddenly last month, handed down the sentence with strong condemnation against Hughes.

‘He engaged in brazen predatory behaviour; he planned and orchestrated the occasions when the conduct occurred. His conduct was persistent and calculated,’ he said.

He will be deported to the UK where he will live with his wife Robyn Gardiner (pictured together)

‘He abused his position of trust and exploited the naivety and youth of the children.

‘The profound and deleterious effects on the victims for many years, if not the whole of their lives. The victims here remain deeply disturbed by the conduct of the offender.’ 

Hughes’ legal aid lawyer Hannah Bruce told the parole authority he should be released because he was assessed to be ‘either medium, below risk or low risk of reoffending’.

‘Whilst in custody it makes him ineligible for programs, he is ineligible for any sex offender programs… there are no further programs that he can complete whilst in custody that would go to reducing his risk of reoffending,’ she said at the hearing.

‘It’s not a situation where he will be completely unmonitored when released to the community.

‘He’s a gentleman towards the end of his years. His focus on release is maintaining a very low profile.’

Hughes’ victims included a family friend, friends of his daughter, and Ms Monahan, who was a child actress who starred with him on Hey Dad!

Hughes said he would engage in counselling with noted psychologist Rachel Pike once he arrived in the UK. 

He will also be required to report to police within three days of his return to the UK, and once a year from then on and within three days of changing his details. 

He will be required to provide passport and banking details and must notify police of any intention to travel out of the UK. 

Hughes must also provide details of where he lives and where he regularly stays if different to his home address. 

‘There is a requirement to notify police if he going to stay (for a period of at least 12 hours) at a household where a child is present,’ the parole authority noted.

He will be sent back to jail for up to six months if he fails to fulfil these conditions. 

Hughes will be transferred from Long Bay Correctional Centre to Villawood Detention Centre ahead of his deportation. 

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