Esperance woman convicted on two counts of assault at the Bay of Isles Leisure Centre

A 38-year-old woman was found guilty of two counts of assault following a trial on February 7 in Esperance Magistrates Court. 

Former Activ employee, Kristy Marie Bennett was privately supporting a person with disabilities at the Bay of Isles Leisure Centre on Thursday, September 6, 2018 when she assaulted another woman twice.

The victim was also supporting people with disabilities at the pool and the two had previously worked together. 

Bennett claimed the assault never occurred and said the victim had tried to take photos of her and her client.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Carolyn Petersen told the court at 3:00pm Bennett approached the victim and began yelling and swearing at her.

Bennett then walked away briefly but decided to re-approach the victim.

At 3:01pm she attempted to strike the woman, but the victim managed to block the blow.

Two minutes later, the victim and a co-worker were getting their clients out of the situation and walked past Bennett.

Police said Bennett attempted to strike the victim a second time, but the blow was blocked again. 

Police submitted CCTV footage of the assaults as part of the trial.

Magistrate Ayling asked Bennett if she had seen the CCTV before and if she still wanted to dispute the charges.

Bennett said she had not seen the CCTV but confirmed she wanted to continue with the trial.

Snr Constable Petersen called the victim and the co-worker as witnesses.

The victim said Bennett had approached disability support workers and their clients at a number of events in the past and said Bennett had intimidated her former colleagues. 

She said Bennett approached and stood next to her outside of the pool yelling, accusing her of taking photos of her and swore at her.

The victim said she told Bennett she had not taken photos of her and then put her phone in her back pocket.

She said Bennett claimed she had called the police and threatened her saying, “I know where you live” and that she was to going to knock her “head off”.

The victim said as she tried to leave, Bennett stood in her way and said she wouldn’t move until she had her phone. 

In cross-examination, Bennett claimed the victim had been at the pool to “provoke” her.

The victim said she was aware Bennett would be at the pool and said because of previous altercations with a staff member she wanted to ensure staff and client safety. 

Bennett asked the victim, “if you were so scared why did you continue to follow me?”

The victim replied “I needed to make sure my customers were safe and needed to make sure you were no longer near them.”

The victim said Bennett was acting in a way that was “frightening and intimidating” in front of people who were vulnerable. 

Bennett submitted no evidence in her defence and did not testify.

In closing, Snr Constable Petersen said Bennett “was actively hostile in relation to [the victim].”

In closing, Bennett said she never tried to strike the victim, but admitted she tried to grab her phone.

“They were provoking me the whole time,” she said.

“I just want to get on with my life.

“Maybe I was waving my arms around.”

Bennett claimed the victim’s presence at the pool was a provocation. 

The magistrate said there was “no excuse” for Bennett’s behaviour describing it as “deliberate”.

“There was plenty of opportunity for her to desist and not engage,” she said. 

Magistrate Ayling said the first strike was clear and said, while the second was less clear, there was a movement forward which showed a “threatened application of force”. 

The magistrate said it was clear Bennett was yelling and while the exact words were unclear, at least one profanity was discernible.

Bennett was given a global fine of $800 and charged $205.30 in court costs.

The offender submitted references from the families of people she supported.

Magistrate Ayling asked her if she had sought counselling for anger management.

Bennett replied, “I’m not an angry person unless I’m provoked.”

The prosecution opposed Bennett’s application, saying there was a public interest as both the victim and offender had been working with vulnerable people. 

Bennett’s application for a spent conviction was denied as she already had a number of spent convictions, including for obstructing police last year