Man avoids jail
An Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who inappropriately touched two girls while helping them with gymnastics at a Perth playground has been spared an immediate jail term.
Stuart Phillip Bugeja, 36, stood trial and was convicted of four counts of indecently dealing with two girls, aged 11 and 12, at a Baldivis park in January, 2017.
The girls were doing cartwheels and gymnastics exercises when Bugeja approached them, then suggested they do stretching exercises, the West Australian District Court heard last Wednesday.
Judge Troy Sweeney rejected the suggestion Bugeja was expressing concern for the girls’ safety, saying they were not in any danger.
When one girl asked Bugeja if he was a sports teacher, he replied: “Something like that.”
“You offered your assistance as if you were some sort of coach, and I find that the girls just naturally bowed to your greater age and your attitude of friendly authority,” Judge Sweeney said.
Bugeja’s offending was filmed on a mobile phone, which was played during the trial. Judge Sweeney said it was more than fleeting touches and the crime was sexually motivated, but it was not premeditated, forceful or threatening.
She described the girls as naive to knowing what was happening initially, but they were later upset, and must have felt violated and embarrassed.
Judge Sweeney acknowledged Bugeja had served his country, having spent nine years in the army specialising in electronic warfare.
She also accepted the offending was out of character but said he had not shown remorse or insight.
Bugeja was at an average risk of re-offending and would benefit from one-on-one counselling, she said.
The court also heard Bugeja had had a harsh and dysfunctional childhood, and had mild autism spectrum disorder but no intellectual disability.
He was sentenced to 15 months in prison, wholly suspended, with supervision and program requirements.
Police are on the lookout for stolen firearms.