News Crime Legal victory for ‘buyer’s remorse’ rape case victim, as magistrate probe continues

Legal victory for ‘buyer’s remorse’ rape case victim, as magistrate probe continues

Looking forward: Rape victim Penny says she can finally move on with her life. Photo: Andrea Hamblin
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Penny was raped by a stranger who had taken her home after she was passing out drunk at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

When her case went to court, Magistrate Richard Pithouse suggested he couldn’t reward someone with “buyer’s remorse” looking to profit from their own “malfeasance”.

Now, vindication.

In a major victory for the legally blind woman left with post-traumatic stress, a court on Thursday ruled Penny had indeed been the victim of sexual violence.

“I just feel free – I can move on with my life,” Penny told The New Daily.

“All I ever wanted was to be heard and have a court recognise what happened to me was a crime.

“Today was about me and my voice being heard.”

Penny (not her real name) outside court on Thursday. Photo: Andrea Hamblin

Ending a more than two-year fight for official legal recognition of the sex assault, Magistrate Fiona Hayes awarded Penny $10,000 – the maximum amount available in the Victorian victims’ tribunal.

The state will also cover costs for Penny’s recovery, including past and future psychological help.

Meanwhile, Judicial Commission Victoria continues to investigate Mr Pithouse following complaints over his comments at an earlier Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) hearing.

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for him to be removed.

Mr Pithouse had suggested Penny “put herself in that position”, saying “you can’t profit from your own malfeasance”.

The New Daily has previously revealed he was the subject of another complaint after a social media page under his name appeared to criticise Penny’s barrister.

Richard Pithouse
Richard Pithouse is under investigation. Photo: Hamilton Spectator

It is against the law to have sex with someone who is so drunk they can not consent, or who is passed out.

Magistrate Hayes found Penny had been so affected by alcohol, exacerbated by a prescription medication, rendering her in no state to consent to sex on the night in March 2017.

The court accepted Penny’s evidence that she had blacked out and ‘came to’ in the man’s bed while he was performing sex acts.

She had woken up distressed in the stranger’s home before alerting police that day.

CCTV footage from Crown Casino and a taxi backed up her story.

The verdict was made at VOCAT, a tribunal where victims can have the crime against them recognised even without a criminal conviction against the accused.

In Penny’s case, as is not uncommon in investigations into sexual violence, police had decided they did not have enough evidence to win a conviction.

But she still had the option to pursue the matter at VOCAT.

“It’s never OK to take advantage of a heavily intoxicated or unconscious person, no matter what their prior behaviour,” Penny said.

“It’s also never OK to use intoxication as an excuse for committing rape.”

Penny has enrolled to study law at university and hopes to help other assault victims navigate the legal system.