'FROZEN IN FEAR': Man sexually assaults woman in IGA carpark
A COURT has heard of a harrowing sexual assault of a 59-year-old woman who was left frozen in fear when a stranger slid his hand down her shirt and put her breasts in his mouth outside a local IGA.
Mike Andrew Connell, 45, pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault (a sexual assault offence) in the District Court at Bundaberg yesterday.
The Crown told Judge Katherine McGinness that Connell had an intellectual impairment, significantly reducing his comprehension skills and ability to distinguish between right and wrong.
The charges against Connell arose on September 25, 2014, at Cornetts Supa IGA on Woongarra St.
Crown prosecutor Christopher Cook said the complainant in the matter had asked the then-41-year-old to help her find some items in the grocery store.
As they walked up and aisle, Connell stroked the woman's back, causing her instant alarm and a request for him to stop immediately.
After going their separate ways, the woman paid for her items at the checkout and made her way to her car.
Connell arrived moments later and offered to help her with her groceries.
When she got in her car, the man put his hand down her shirt and forced her back into the seat.
"You sucked on her breasts and it ended when she used her legs to push you off and yelled 'Get off'!", Judge McGinness said during sentencing.
"(She) was extremely scared when you acted in this way and, in fact, she froze in fear and asked what you were doing.
"Unsurprisingly, she was very distraught."
In a victim impact statement handed up in court, the woman said she experienced nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks and was afraid of leaving her home as a result of the attack.
"Your behaviour has had that effect upon her and you are not to act in that way ever again or you will go to jail," Judge McGinness told Connell.
Mr Cook added the complainant "Was frozen (in fear) from the start for a period and not actively responding to Mr Connell's unwanted advances".
"It seems that he didn't take the social cues from her prior and during the offending."
Due to Connell's impairments, prosecution accepted he had "genuinely believed (the woman) was consenting, but that (his) belief was not held on reasonable grounds".
Defence barrister Jacob Robson said in the years following the offending, his client had started seeking professional help for his intellectual impairment and reduced moral culpability and comprehension skills, which are equivalent to that of a lower primary school student.
He said Connell was now on medication and had his own guardian and a carer (his partner).
Judge McGinness heard Connell had been before the courts for a number of offences before, specifically in Western Australia.
"Fortunately not for this type of offending, because if you had, I would most probably be sending you to jail today," she told him.
Judge McGinness sentenced him to 12 months in prison, wholly suspended for 12 months and released him on probation.
Convictions were recorded.