Drunk enrages magistrate
LISMORE Local Court Magistrate Robyn Denes became outraged a Gold Coast teenager celebrating his 19th birthday would get uninvited into the bed of a sleeping Canadian backpacker in a Byron Bay hostel and sexually grope her.
Matthew Curran, 19, a plumber’s apprentice from Merrimac, pleaded guilty yesterday to indecently assaulting the young woman as she slept in a mixed dormitory room of the Nomads Backpackers Hostel at 5am on February 11. A more serious charge of rape was withdrawn by the Crown.
The case became somewhat heated in the courtroom when defence lawyer Bruce Peters argued his client was intoxicated and the ‘charged’ atmosphere of the shared dormitory led to the sexual assault.
A disbelieving Ms Denes said it was wrong to assume it was ‘a free for all’ in such shared rooms and for his client ‘to be hopping into some strange girl’s bed thinking there would be some sexual activity between them’.
“Do we have to segregate seats on planes?” she said.
“She was in her own bed. From the facts everyone else is asleep. It is not like there is a party happening in the room. The evidence is clear.”
Crown evidence stated that when the woman’s male friend left her bunk to go to the bathroom he wedged the door open, but the door was shut and locked when he tried to return.
In those few minutes Curran had climbed into the 27-year-old woman’s bed kissing her, groping her breasts and genital area, along with other indecent acts with his penis until she woke and fled in anger from the bed.
Mr Peters said his client’s behaviour was atrocious, but it had been the alcohol after a night out celebrating his birthday.
“He has got a lot of growing up to do with his social engagement skills,” he acknowledged.
“Are you trying to say he was so drunk that he popped into her bed,” Ms Denes asked.
“Yes,” Mr Peters said.
“It was opportunistic. I find his behaviour absolutely appalling. He needs some counselling,” Ms Denes said.
The Crown said the victim was ‘vulnerable and asleep’ and within minutes of her bed partner vacating the bed Curran had taken his place and began his assault.
Ms Denes ordered a pre-sentence report and adjourned the matter for sentence on October 5.