A former client of The Biggest Loser trainer Steve 'Commando' Willis has had an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) dismissed on appeal.
The celebrity trainer had alleged that Jun 'Margaret' Yue had been stalking him after they had a dispute over her non-payment of some of his fees.
In October 2020, a Local Court Magistrate made the AVO for a period of two years. However, Judge James Bennett set the order aside at Parramatta District Court.
Mr Willis was not present at the appeal.
AVO Initially Granted at Parramatta Local Court
Last year, Steve 'Commando' Willis' gave evidence at Parramatta Local Court that Ms Yue's behaviour left him "rattled". He claimed she had "crossed the boundaries" of their professional relationship.
Mr Willis told the court, "You start to fear for your safety when you've expressed no many times and it's just not accepted."
A final AVO was made on 30 October 2020 with a number of conditions. This included conditions preventing Ms Yue from contacting or going within 200m of Mr Willis for two years.
However, this was overturned on appeal.
AVO Dismissed on Appeal
The AVO appeal proceeded at Downing Centre District Court before Judge Bennett. Ms Yue, the appellant, appeared by video link as did her AVO lawyers.
The court heard that the pair met when Ms Yue contacted Mr Willis to arrange personal training for herself. Over the course of 14 months between March 2019 and May 2020, Ms Yue paid Willis approximately $19,000.
It was agreed that Ms Yue paid him $150 cash per session, however, at one stage she fell behind on her payments. When the debt increased to $1350, Mr Willis said he would no longer train her until she paid the full amount.
The incidents he reported to police, which grounded his fears occurred between November 2019 and May 2020.
Amongst the allegations was that she called Steve 'Commando' Willis "Shifu" - meaning master - in texts, prepared Christmas presents for his family and once arrived spontaneously at Sydney Airport to offer Mr Willis a lift home.
But Judge Bennett said those actions need to be viewed in the context of a friendship that would naturally form over the course of 120 personal training sessions.
His Honour said, "There's no evidence that she was anything other than respectful to him and his family other that what Mr Willis said in his statement."
He also found The Biggest Loser trainer attempted to distance himself from Ms Yue after events that concerned him. However, he ultimately found that there was no evidence Mr Willis told her she had crossed personal boundaries.
Central to this finding was that Mr Willis continued to train her for several months after the first alleged incident in November 2019.
He said there were no messages in evidence showing any issues between the parties until a demand for money in May 2020 when Ms Yue fell behind in her payments.
"There was no adequate communication to her that might have reset the boundaries that might have blurred...I'm not satisfied that the conduct attributed to (Ms Yue) is sufficient for the making of the order."
The judge went on to say that Mr Willis was "engaged in a commercial enterprise" built on fostering a connection with clients such as Ms Yue through personal encouragement and social media.
His Honour placed reliance on that fact that Ms Yue had not contacted the celebrity trainer since he reported her to police in June 2020. He was also troubled by Mr Willis' decision not to attend court ordered mediation last year, which could have prevented the matter proceeding to hearing.
Judge Bennett found that although Ms Yue clearly had affection for Mr Willis, and felt closer to him than was reciprocated, her actions did not amount to stalking.
Steve 'Commando' Willis Does Not Appear at AVO Appeal
Mr Willis, 45, did not tune in to observe the proceedings.
In the course of submissions at the Downing Centre for the AVO appeal it was argued that Ms Yue had a normal client-trainer relationship with the celebrity trainer who she respected greatly.
Mr Willis was accused of lying about fearing Ms Yue and making false AVO claims. It was suggested that he may have allowed the ugly case to play out in court as a "media grab".
An AVO is an apprehended violence order. It is a Court order imposed on a person for the protection of another person (or persons).
In today's context, domestic violence charges are very common. There have been a number of recent examples of AVOs being withdrawn and/or dismissed after retaining experienced criminal lawyers. You can view some of those cases by clicking here.
We have offices throughout the Sydney metropolitan area where you can speak to Sydney, Liverpool and Parramatta Criminal Lawyers. We can arrange a conference for you with a Law Society Accredited Specialist in AVOs. Call Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823. Or, you can email email@example.com.
There are some mandatory conditions that come with an AVO, and then there are other optional conditions. These conditions restrict the behaviour of the person on whom the AVO is imposed.
As an AVO is not a criminal conviction, it will not appear on any Police check. However, an AVO may place restrictions on what you can and cannot do. Some common examples of conditions are:
- You cannot approach or contact a particular person or persons;
- You cannot enter a particular premises;
- You cannot go within a certain distance of a particular location;
- You cannot be in the company of a particular person within 12 hours of consuming alcohol.
Because of this, 'how to beat an AVO' is a common query many defendants have.
In order to know how to get an AVO dismissed, a defendant must consult Section 16 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act sets out the factors that must be proved on the balance of probabilities:
- The alleged victim has reasonable grounds to fear a personal violence offence from you; and
- The alleged victim, fears a personal violence offence from you unless:
a) The alleged victim is under 16 years of age
b) The alleged victim has a mental impairment
c) the alleged victim has, in the past, been subject to a personal violence offence from you and the court believes there is a reasonable likelihood of it occurring again.
- It is appropriate to make an AVO in the terms sought.
If any of these matters cannot be proved, then the AVO will not be made.
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.