Man who dragged woman into laneway may avoid prison, court hears

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A man cleared of intending to sexually assault a woman he dragged into a city laneway may avoid prison on a lesser charge, a court has heard.

Jackson Williams, 21, faced the County Court on Thursday for a pre-sentence hearing after he was found guilty of common assault over the random early morning attack in Brights Place, off Little Lonsdale Street, on October 28, 2018.

CCTV footage shows Jackson Williams grab the woman from behind.

CCTV footage played in court showed Williams grabbing the woman from behind, putting his hand over her mouth and dragging her into the laneway before lying on top of her.

Williams ran away when an off-duty police officer saw the struggle and called out as he ran towards the pair. The attack took place just before 6.30am when the woman was on her way to work.

Last month, Williams was found not guilty after a judge-only trial of intent to commit a sexual offence, but guilty of the alternative charge of common assault.

On Thursday, lawyers for both the prosecution and defence argued that a community corrections order was a sufficient sentence for the crime.

The woman was held down in the daylight attack.Credit:

The court heard that Williams, who is Indigenous, had been subjected to racial abuse and other threats since his conviction. Those matters are being investigated by police.

"It is not expected that vigilante behaviour should be condoned or expected in our society," said his defence lawyer, Rosalind Avis.

The court heard that Williams had no prior convictions and has not committed any other offences in the two years that he has been on bail since the attack.

Ms Avis argued that her client had shown remorse for his offending, acknowledging that the attack was "terrifying and can never ever be repeated". He had been unable to give a reason for why he did it, except that he was drunk, she said.

He dragged her into Brights Place, off Little Lonsdale Street, putting a hand over her mouth as he lay on top of her.Credit:

"His actions on that night appear to be out of character and have shocked him and as a result of that he has done everything possible to address that behaviour," she said.

The court also heard that Williams had undertaken treatment for alcohol and drug addiction at the Bunjilwarra rehabilitation centre. He has been diagnosed with depression and social anxiety.

Clinical pyschologist Alice Crole told the court that she had assessed Williams multiple times and believed his continued abstinence from alcohol was important to prevent him reoffending.

"From his non-intoxicated state, he gave me no sense that he has negative attitudes toward women," she said.

Prosecutor Stephanie Clancy said Williams had only shown remorse for how the crime had impacted his own life, rather than how it had affected his victim.

"It was an unprovoked attack on the victim, she was simply walking past Mr Williams on her way to work," she said. "It was cowardly."

Ms Clancy also challenged the argument that alcohol was the key factor behind the attack. However she said that sentencing Williams to a community corrections order would not be manifestly inadequate.

Judge Amanda Fox agreed to have Williams assessed for a community corrections order, however she left open the possibility of handing him a term in prison.

In her judgment, Judge Fox said there was clear evidence of an "intentional and violent attack".

However she said she had no evidence of the man's intent and found it was possible he was trying to rob or assault the woman.

The matter will return to court for sentencing on November 18.

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