A 68-year-old Macgregor man who allegedly grabbed a 17-year-old female co-worker around the throat, has pleaded not guilty to one charge of common assault at the ACT Magistrates Court today.
(Tim Warren reporting outside the ACT Magistrates Court on October 16, 2017)
Lakshman Senanayake, an employee of a Canberran aged care facility, was accused of assaulting the teenage staff member because she didn’t check if there was sufficient biscuit supply for the day for their residents.
The teenager said that herself and Mr. Senanayake had been working together in the kitchen serving breakfast for residents on June 9 last year, when at about 8:30am Mr. Senanayake got aggravated with her.
She then went on to say that while he was firmly squeezing her throat for a of couple seconds, Mr. Senanayake said in a loud and raised voice that “I could kill you,” she said.
The teenager said she then pushed Mr. Senanayake back and said “you’ve gone too far this time”, referring to previous occasions during that week where he had criticised her job performance.
Police arrived on the scene at about 9:38am and intervened, after they were called by senior staff, and took photographs of red marks on the teenager’s neck, supposably caused by Mr. Senanayake.
Mr. Senanayake was arrested and said in a police interview later that day, with the help of a Sri Lankan interpreter, that the accusations were completely false and that he had only touched her hand.
“I am more experienced than her and she is very jealous of me,” Mr. Senanayake said during the interview.
While there were no eyewitnesses in the kitchen area at the time, the female teenager agreed with Mr. Senanayake’s defence solicitor during the cross-examination that residents could have been sitting at tables nearby, although she couldn’t recall exactly.
The court hearing has been adjourned until Wednesday, December 20, where the verdict will be handed down.
500 Word Reflection:
The trip to the ACT Magistrate’s court was an eye-opening experience and one that a lot could be learned from. First of all, we had to enter through the main doors with everyone else and get scanned for any unpermitted items in the court rooms as a safety precaution. We were also asked to dress professionally as it is good practice and a serious environment where a good reputation is important. When entering and leaving the courtroom, it is a standard etiquette to acknowledge the bench by a head nod, while causing minimal disturbance. When the judicial officer entered and left the courtroom we were required to stand. Recording devices were not permitted in the courtroom, meaning all phones and laptops were to be switched off and we could only write hand written notes. Also, talking levels could only be whispering or not at all. The professional media are required to carry ID at all times, but as only students we did not adhere to this. Although the Magistrates court is open for the general public to sit in, the media must acknowledge that it’s a privilege, not a right, to sit in on court proceedings, unless the Magistrate tells them they can’t report on a case and must leave the courtroom. All these procedures were based on the ‘MEAA Journalists’ Code of Ethics’.
Certain laws were relevant upon reflection of the individual case that I saw live and wrote my court report about. In courtroom 4 of the ACT Magistrates court at 10 a.m. on Monday the 16th of October, I sat in to report on a court case that had ethical issues that had to be strictly followed when writing the story. This case was about a common assault case against a 17-year-old female teenager, at a Canberran aged care facility. As the female teenager was under the age of 18 at the time, she was classed as a child by law and could not be named in any media related articles. According to the Pearson and Polden in the 4th Edition of the ‘Journalist’s guide to media law’, regarding children in court; “all states and territories ban the identification of children charged with criminal offences. Jurisdictions vary in the other aspects of reporting cases involving children. Court reporters firstly need to know the age at which young offenders will be treated as adults under the law. A person aged … eighteen is deemed an adult under all other jurisdictions” (Pearson and Polden). Furthermore, laws in this textbook, state that journalists cannot mention any details about the defendant or victim that might give away their confidentially, including suburb, appearance, race, or other remarkable or unique detail. We had to follow all of these laws regarding the restrictions on reports of proceedings involving children, in order to abide by the correct newsworthy standards of professional organisations.