'Reasonable doubt' in SA MP's assault case

·3-min read

The evidence of two key witnesses is at odds in the case against South Australian MP Sam Duluk, who allegedly slapped a fellow MP on the bottom at a parliament house Christmas party, a court has heard.

After Duluk elected not to give evidence in his assault trial, defence counsel Marie Shaw QC told Adelaide Magistrates Court on Wednesday the evidence of two main prosecution witnesses could not be reconciled.

She said the alleged victim, SA-BEST upper house MP Connie Bonaros, had given one account of the incident while parliamentary staffer Emily Bird had given a differing account.

"Their accounts cannot be reconciled," Ms Shaw told Magistrate John Wells.

"It comes down to the exacting standard of what is the burden of proof. Your honour cannot discharge the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt."

Ms Shaw also made reference to the case of Cardinal George Pell, who was acquitted on appeal by the High Court on child sex charges.

She said in both cases it could be accepted that witnesses might be credible but that they might have provided conflicting evidence.

At the start of his two-day trial, Duluk pleaded not guilty to the assault allegation related to his conduct at the party in December 2019.

In her evidence, Ms Bonaros said the lower house MP had approached her from the side or from behind and had "proceeded to put his arm around me and whack me on the bottom".

"My next instinct after he did what he did was first to find my feet and then to tell Mr Duluk to sit the f*** down," she said.

The court heard that when the pair were seated, Ms Bonaros asked Duluk what he was doing, telling him "do you think because you are some sort of Liberal powerbroker you can do whatever you want?".

She said she felt shocked and extremely embarrassed after the incident.

Ms Bonaros had previously detailed to the court a number of earlier incidents at the party involving Duluk including one where he lifted her up in the air as a photo was being taken and another where she was sitting down and he "hoisted" her chair up.

At one stage he also poured ice down the front of her dress, she said.

However, Ms Bird said Ms Bonaros had managed to dodge the ice after Duluk had thrown it.

She also described the slap as a pat, indicating that Duluk had not swung his arm before making contact.

In her final argument, prosecutor Anika Francis said it was the crown case that Duluk had intentionally applied force to the bottom of Ms Bonaros without her consent.

She said such conduct would not be generally accepted in the community as a normal part of social interaction.

Duluk was banished from the Liberal party room over his alleged behaviour and suspended his wider Liberal Party membership.

But a parliamentary inquiry launched into his conduct was put on hold while the police investigations were underway.

He has continued to sit in parliament's House of Assembly as an independent.

Mr Wells will hand down his verdict on July 15.

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