A Sydney paramedic who used his position to prey on young women at train stations has been jailed on sexual touching charges.
Peter John Thistlethwaite was found guilty by a jury of exploiting eight female victims, the youngest being 17-years-old while on duty.
Expert evidence at trial had proven that his medical examinations were unnecessary and unwarranted.
He will be eligible for release in 2023.
Trial for Sexual Touching Charges
It was alleged that the paramedic committed the offences over seven months throughout 2019. In total there were eight victims, with the youngest being 17-years-old. All of the victims sought treatment for minor medical ailments such as dizziness or nausea.
The first incident occurred in January 2019. Thistlethwaite asked the female to pull up her shirt, exposing her bra, and placed his stethoscope several centimetres above her nipple three times.
He repeated this with several other women. In June 2019 he asked a woman to pull down her jeans, exposing her pubic hair slightly, and placed his hand on her groin.
In July 2019 he dealt with a 25-year-old woman at Redfern train station. She complained about him pulling down her jeans and underwear. This led to an investigation where other incidents were exposed.
The court heard that he would obtain his victims phone numbers by looking at their patient treatment forms and would then text them sexualised messages or ask them out.
The court heard that he told one woman she was "cute" and "adorable". He also touched her pubic region and claimed he was checking for "ovarian cancer".
Another victim, who he made comments to about "spanking on the arse", said she felt fearful for her safety after she received a text from him later that evening.
He would also ask the women whether they had a boyfriend or were sexually active. On occasion he would ask the women if he could take them home or offered to walk them out of the train station. He also asked one victim if she liked men with tattoos before taking off his shirt.
However, he came undone as the final victim had received years of training as a nurse. While examining her, Thistlethwaite pulled down her jeans and underwear and touched her on the inner groin within millimetres of her labia for about half a minute.
After she left she approached a police officer and reported the incident.
Despite Peter Thistlethwaite denying the allegations, a jury rejected his version of events and found him guilty of 16 counts of sexual touching.
In sentencing Thistlethwaite to jail for sexual touching charges, NSW District Court Judge Michael King labelled the offending as involving, "calculated deception while treating sick patients, some of them being significantly younger than the offender."
His Honour described how the 40-year-old paramedic would put a stethoscope on their breasts and his hands on their groin while examining them in medical rooms at Sydney train stations, including Wolli Creek, Town Hall and Redfern.
"I accept that a paramedic conducting himself in this fashion makes the offending difficult to detect and difficult to prosecute because the victims are led to believe the examinations are for genuine medical purposes. The offending can reasonably be described as serial and predatory."
Judge King told the court that expert evidence at trial had proven that his so-called medical examinations were unnecessary and unwarranted.
He added that, "at trial, the offender's counsel sought to use the state of illness of each victim, and sometimes even their medical or psychiatric history, as a weapon to undermine each witness."
All of his initial seven victims were under the misapprehension that he was carrying out legitimate medical checks while he was employed as a private paramedic by Safety Australia Group.
Judge King noted that he touched the women for his own sexual gratification and his victims were vulnerable due to their illness.
The court was told that despite being charged in August 2019 and being found guilty of 16 charges at trial, Thistlethwaite had yet to accept responsibility or express contrition.
Judge King said Thistlethwaite had claimed: "I 100 per cent don't think I have done anything legally wrong."
Thistlethwaite was supported by family in court as he was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months in jail. He will be eligible for release in October 2023 after serving a two-year non-parole period.
Sexual Touching Lawyers
Under Section 61KC of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), sexual touching is defined as touching another person with any part of your body, or with anything else, in circumstances where a reasonable person would consider the touching to be sexual.
To determine whether a reasonable person would find the touching to be sexual, the court can take into account:
- Whether you did the touching for sexual gratification or arousal
- The area of the alleged victim's body that you touched;
- Anything else about touching or circumstances that might make it sexual.
Community attitudes have changed significantly since the #metoo movement which has made fighting such allegations more difficult than ever before.
Our specialist sexual assault lawyers in Sydney have a proven track record of breaking apart prosecution cases by meticulously analysing the statements of alleged victims and cross-examining them to ensure false allegations are exposed. You can read some recent cases by clicking here. Contact Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to a senior lawyer today.
Sexual touching lawyers can fight a this charge in two ways. Firstly, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt:
- You sexually touched the alleged victim, OR
- You incited another person to sexual touch the alleged victim or yourself; AND
- The alleged victim did not give you consent for that touching; AND
- You were aware that you did not have consent for that touching
The following defences to sexual touching charges apply:
- Consent: You held an honest and reasonable belief that the alleged victim was giving consent.
- Identification: The Crown cannot establish that you were the perpetrator. We have a number of experts (such as DNA, fingerprint, CCTV and intoxication experts) who are able to cast doubt on identification in certain situations;
- There was a legitimate medical purpose for the touching;
- Accident: if any touching was purely an accident. An example of this could be bumping into another person on a train and accidentally touching their private parts;
- Automatism: This is where the touching was involuntary
- Duress: You were forced to commit the offence
- Necessity: the commission of the offence was necessary in the circumstances
The maximum penalty for Sexual touching is 5 years imprisonment if dealt with on indictment (ie. The prosecutor chooses to have the case proceed to the District Court). The maximum penalty in the Local Court is 2 years imprisonment.
Statistics since 2018 reveal that 33% of offenders were sentenced to some form of jail for this offence. 16% were sentenced to full-time imprisonment. 16% of offenders received no criminal conviction for sexual touching. All remaining offenders received criminal convictions.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.