Hookey found guilty

A JURY took less than two hours yesterday to find South Grafton landscaper Shane Hookey guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in a Shoppingworld stairwell in February, 2004.

Hookey must now wait to learn his fate when he is sentenced in Campbelltown on September 29 on the charges and four separate malicious wounding charges to which he pleaded guilty following yesterday's verdict.

Over the trial's four days at Grafton District Court, the six-man, six-woman jury heard two starkly contrasting versions of the assault.

The teenage victim recounted her recollection of events via a video link to a closed court on Tuesday.

The court had heard the girl recall in evidence that she had been walking past Shoppingworld when 'a fat Aboriginal man' offered her a smoke before pushing her into a fire exit tunnel and sexually assaulting her.

During his evidence, Hookey told jurors the girl had offered him sexual favours in exchange for cannabis and that she had consented to the act.

Several witnesses provided evidence during the trial, but in the end it was Hookey's word against the girl's that the jury was left to consider when they broke for lunch.

During his directions to the jury earlier in the day, Judge Chris Geraghty said the crux of the case rested on whether the girl had consented.

Judge Geraghty also took care to remind the jury that the distressed state the girl appeared in when giving evidence should not be given any extra weight when considering their verdict.

"Because there's only one person that the Crown asks us to rely on, you have to scrutinise the evidence with great care," he said.

Judge Geraghty also reminded the jury of Hookey's presumption of innocence and his right to silence under the law, in light of his refusal to take part in a police interview at the time of his arrest.

But a presumption of innocence could not save Hookey from a guilty finding as the jury handed down its verdict, albeit a slightly faltering one.

Hookey was found not guilty of indecently assaulting the girl in relation to an incident at Market Square in January last year.

He was also found not guilty of sexual intercourse without consent in relation to the stairwell incident until the jury's foreman quickly corrected himself and announced that Hookey had in fact been found guilty of the charge.

Hookey was subsequently found guilty on three more charges of indecent assault in relation to the same incident.

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