Lawyer Guilty of Sexual Assault

By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim.

A 35-year old lawyer from London is facing prison time after his drunken behaviour got out of control at a Christmas Party at the prestigious London Rowing Club, leading to convictions for ‘racially-aggravated assault’ and ‘sexual assault’.

Festive celebrations went horribly wrong for lawyer Alastair Main in December 2015 when an Australian woman in her twenties – who has not been named – refused to give him a hug at a club dinner.

A District Court in Wimbledon heard that, when the woman refused the embrace, Main felt “humiliated” and “sexually rejected”, reacting by calling her an “Australian slut” and pouring beer all over her. The court further heard that Main followed the woman into the ladies’ bathroom, lifted up her skirt and smacked her to the buttocks five times.

Main testified that the slaps were “cheeky” and “flirty”, and his lawyer submitted there was a reasonable possibility his client genuinely believed the complainant was consenting to the conduct. Main gave evidence that the woman slapped him in the face after their initial exchange, and admitted following her to “make amends”. He denied ever referring to her nationality.

Although Main’s lawyer questioned the complainant at length, judge Barbara Barnes found her evidence to be “credible and convincing”.

By contrast, addressed the defendant as follows:

“I have to say I did not find you to be a credible or convincing witness.

“You admit you were drunk. You admit being a various times angry, upset, confused, apprehensive.

“You memory of the events of that night may have been affected by the amount of alcohol you had.

“You admit also you followed (the complainant) to the ladies’ toilets.

Main was convicted and granted unconditional bail.

Law in NSW

There is no specific offence of ‘racially-aggravated assault’ in NSW, and Mr Main would likely have been charged with ‘indecent assault’ rather than sexual assault if the matter had been prosecuted in NSW.

Section 61L of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) contains the offence of indecent assault, which is where a  person assaults another and before, at the time of, or after the assault commits an act of indecency on or in the presence of that other person. The maximum penalty for the offence is five years’ imprisonment.

There is no list of what constitutes an ‘act of indecency’. However, the act must have some sexual connotation – for example, touching the genitalia, buttocks or breasts, kissing in a sexual manner etc.

Whether or not a particular act is ‘indecent’ is assessed against the ‘ordinary standards of respectable people in the community’, and the intention of the defendant is a matter which can be taken into account during that assessment; DPP v Eades [2009] NSWSC 1352.

Mr Main’s matter is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on January 26.

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