Australia

Melbourne laneway attacker subject to ‘vigilante’ actions: Court

A former district footy player who assaulted a nurse as she was walking to work in the Melbourne CBD has been subject to “vigilante” attacks and social media criticism, his lawyer told a court. Jackson Williams appeared in the County Court of Victoria on Thursday for a plea hearing after he was convicted of assault…

A former district footy player who assaulted a nurse as she was walking to work in the Melbourne CBD has been subject to “vigilante” attacks and social media criticism, his lawyer told a court.

Jackson Williams appeared in the County Court of Victoria on Thursday for a plea hearing after he was convicted of assault but found not guilty of attempt to commit a sexual offence by judge Mandy Fox last month.

Judge Fox on Thursday called his attack a “random, violent assault” on the 39-year-old nurse that “shattered her world and her sense of safety”.

But she said she could not convict the 21-year-old of attempted sexual assault “without resorting to guessing”.

The court heard Williams said he couldn’t remember his actions shortly past 6am on October 28, 2018, when he jumped up from the step he was sitting on, put a woman in a headlock from behind, dragged her into an alleyway, climbed on top of her, and pinned his body against her as she struggled to free herself – before an off-duty cop heard screaming and interrupted.

Prosecutor Stephanie Clancy called the attack “cowardly”.

Williams’s lawyer Rosalind Avis told the court the Sydney barrister’s son had not grown up with “deprivation”.

But she said he experienced “emotional dysfunction” after learning of his Aboriginal heritage, which had been kept from him, through his biological mother’s side around the age of 12.

She said he had an IQ of 71, one point above the categorisation for a mild intellectual disability.

The court heard Williams had been expelled from the Westmeadows Tigers Football Club, which is part of the Essendon District Football League.

He was hurt when a friend at the club he had stood by in the past pushed for him to be kicked out after seeing footage of his attack, Ms Avis said.

Facebook messages sent to Williams and photographs of smashed windows were tendered to the court, and Ms Avis said police were investigating a “vigilante” attack on him after video footage of his assault was released.

Clinical psychologist Alice Crole told the court Williams’s mental health had suffered after the video of his attack was released through his trial in October.

“(He) told his girlfriend he was suicidal and she talked him around,” she said.

“His girlfriend has tried to help him go out in public since his matters went to trial.

“Strangers have remarked that he isn’t remorseful and that has been particularly hard because he does feel bad.”

The court heard Williams told her: “This is not in my nature. I am afraid people will judge me.

“I do feel guilty, especially when I talk about it.

“I have to live with this, and I want her to know that I am really sorry.”

But Ms Clancy said Williams “primarily focuses on the impact of the offending on himself”.

“His first response, or concern, is on how it impacts on him before he considers the victim,” she said.

The victim submitted two statements to the court about the impact of the attack on her life but asked they not be read out loud.

Judge Fox ordered Williams undergo assessment for his suitability for a community corrections order.

He will be sentenced at a later date.

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