The matriarch of an Australian family, which has eight members collectively accused of crimes involving incest, child sexual abuse and lying, has been granted bail in Sydney.
The 52-year-old woman, given the pseudonym Betty Colt, was arrested and charged in April 2018 with perverting the course of justice and five counts of making a false statement on oath amounting to perjury.
Forty members of the same family were found living in squalor on a NSW property in 2012.
Justice Desmond Fagan granted Colt bail in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday, noting she'd spent 14 months behind bars and would not be facing a sentence with a non-parole period greater than that if convicted.
"I can't justify holding her in prison for what appears to be a longer period than her ultimate penalty," he said.
Colt allegedly lied about her sexual relationships and denied knowingly being related to a number of children.
"The Crown case is that she in fact knew that the father of these three children was related to her," Justice Fagan said.
The judge said the false statement proceedings arose in the context of an extended investigation into the Colts.
"It is alleged over a protracted period of time incestuous sexual relations occurred and children were born of these relationships," he said.
"It is alleged that on a particular rural property, where a large number of members of this family resided, various adults engaged in encouraging children who were related to each other to engage in sexual acts."
The allegations extend to adult Colts "forcing" children to have sexual relations with each other, the judge said.
The crown prosecutor had opposed bail, alleging Betty Colt had made phone calls to a female relative "urging that person to withdraw statements made to authorities" and had refused to acknowledge wrongdoing.
"All of the evidence of the children goes to the materiality of the lies and this applicant has shown she does not accept the allegations," the prosecutor argued on Wednesday.
"She maintains there was no issue with the way that the family were living, with the relationships between the family."
The prosecutor said there was a risk Colt would use other family members as a "conduit" to contact witnesses.
But Justice Fagan said "it's just going to have to be managed" and imposed strict bail conditions including that she lives at a fixed address, reports daily to police, surrenders any passport and appears in court when required.
She must seek permission to leave NSW and is also banned from communicating with any of her co-accused or prosecution witnesses, including a long list of family members.
The 52-year-old is the fourth Colt to be granted bail ahead of the estimated three-month trial in February 2020.
At least five child witnesses are due to pre-record their evidence in December.
Cliff Colt, 37, is charged with child sexual assault offences and is expected to make his bid for release on Friday.
Australian Associated Press