A Wollongong court has cleared former reality TV star Lachlan Rofe of assaulting his ex-girlfriend during an argument between the pair at Rofe’s rural property near Camden.
The 39-year-old farmer, who took part in the first series of Married At First Sight in 2015 before appearing on Farmer Wants A Wife in 2016, was charged with common assault following an incident in October 2016 involving his girlfriend of four months, Kasey Williams.
Ms Williams claimed during a hearing in Picton Local Court in July that the pair was sitting on his couch arguing when Mr Rofe grabbed her around the throat. She claimed Mr Rofe also “grabbed” her by the jumper at one stage.
But Magistrate Mary Ryan rejected Ms Williams’ allegation regarding the throat grab, finding Ms Williams lacked credibility as a witness and that the throat grab had not occurred.
However, she did find Mr Rofe guilty of common assault, based in part on his own admission that he had briefly put his hands on Ms Williams as she walked past him, although conceded he had removed them straight away when asked by Ms Williams.
“He admitted in his statement to police ‘grabbing her like that could have caused her to be scared’….that gives some reason for this court to believe that the grabbing of her by the jumper was not done without malicious intent,” Magistrate Ryan said.
She ultimately dismissed the charge without conviction but put a 12-month apprehended violence order in place for Ms Williams’ protection.
However, Mr Rofe appealed the findings in Wollongong District Court on Thursday, with defence lawyer Lance Watson arguing Magistrate Ryan’s findings of fact – particularly the use of the word “grab” – had not accurately reflected the evidence before the court.
He said Mr Rofe had repeatedly described the touching in court as “a soft grab” or “a light touch” and said he had been trying to calm Ms Williams down at the time, not scare her.
“I put my hands like that...it was light...I placed them on her jacket,” Mr Rofe had told Picton court during the initial hearing.
”I sort of put it [my hand] there to console her, I didn’t do it to grab her and stop her leaving.”
Mr Watson argued Mr Rofe “lightly placing his hands on” Ms Williams did not constitute an assault and that Magistrate Ryan had made an error in finding Ms Williams had been in fear of her safety at the time.
“To maintain the finding of guilt would be to state that following a disagreement or argument between a couple that one cannot touch, console, address of reassure the other as it will be viewed and treated as a hostile act and an assault,” he said in written submissions tendered in court.
Judge Andrew Haesler agreed, finding there was no malice in Mr Rofe’s actions.
“It seems clear that the touching or grabbing was to attract the attention of the complainant so they could engage one-on-one,” he said.
“There was no malice to this touching….it should not have attracted the attention of the criminal courts. It falls into the ordinary interaction of two adults in a relationship.”
He overturned the guilty verdict and revoked the AVO.
Outside court, Mr Rofe said he was happy with the result.
“It’s been a tough 18 months,” he said.