Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Australia: NSW cop spared jail over Perth nightclub sex assault, but fined $7500

A DECORATED NSW police officer who sexually assaulted a young woman on a dance floor during an assignment to protect world leaders in Perth has been spared prison but is set to lose his job.

Ian Ronald Sleigh, 45, wept openly in the dock after he was convicted of sexually assaulting the 22-year-old daughter of a WA policeman he had met last October while in the state to work at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Having drunk eight full strength beers on an empty stomach at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow nightspot in Northbridge, Sleigh put his hand up the skirt of the young woman before roughly groping her genitals.

The shocked woman immediately told other police in the pub what had happened, and Sleigh was arrested and initially charged with sexual penetration without consent. That was replaced with a sexual assault charge, to which Sleigh pleaded guilty to on Monday.

Justice Bruce Goetze today fined Sleigh $7500 - an amount he said would go to the victim - but spared him a prison term, which he said would have been made doubly hard by his position as a police officer and convicted sex offender.

"You have suffered a severe amount of public humiliation ... which in your case has been amplified by reason of your position," Justice Goetze said. "Prison is a penalty of last resort, and in my view this offence does not require a term of imprisonment. "It is not an easy decision but that is the one I have come to."

Justice Goetze said the assault had left the young victim emotionally traumatised and needing ongoing counselling.

The court was also told - notwithstanding her family link to the police - that her view of the force had been changed by Sleigh's assault.

Earlier, Detective Inspector Peter McKenna, Sleigh's commanding officer in the Manning/Great Lakes area on the NSW mid-north coast, told the court his former colleague had been suspended without pay following his guilty plea. He now faces the almost inevitable consequence of losing his job of 13 years.

Det Insp McKenna said while the force had been shocked and disgusted by Sleigh's conduct, he still had supporters within the police, and had been retained on desk duties while waiting for the case to come to court.

"He is disgusted with himself as to what has happened, and the flow-on effects to himself, his family and the NSW police," Det Insp McKenna said. "I can't emphasise how out of character this is.

"But my expectation is that he will be dismissed. The impact on the community is going to be immense."

The court heard Sleigh had been forced to sell his house to pay for the legal fees incurred during the case, and his teenage son had been teased and was undergoing counselling. Sleigh also had been physically ill through the stress of the case.

Sleigh said nothing as he left court.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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