The West

No jail for CHOGM sex assault cop
Ian Ronald Sleigh leaves court after being fined $7,500. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

A "highly regarded" NSW police officer deployed to Perth for last year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting who admitted sexually assaulted a young woman on a nightclub dance floor while off-duty avoided jail today and was instead fined $7500.

The District Court was told today Sen. Const. Ian Ronald Sleigh will likely be sacked after he pleaded guilty this week to one count of indecent assault.

The court heard the 45-year-old married father of two was "disgusted" by his actions, which saw him put his hand up a 23-year-old woman's dress and firmly touch her vagina on the outside of her underwear while they were dancing at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow in Northbridge on October 30 last year after meeting her earlier that night through a mutual friend.

The victim quickly moved away and made a complaint.

Judge Bruce Goetze ordered Sleigh to pay the $7500 fine to his victim, who is the daughter of a serving police officer, to help compensate her for her trauma.

He said imposing a fine was not an easy decision, but that Sleigh was genuinely remorseful, was of good character, would be unlikely to reoffend and would find jail a difficult experience being both a sex offender and a police officer.

Judge Goetze said the crime was spontaneous and opportunistic. Sleigh wiped away tears in the dock after being told he was not going to prison.

State prosecutor Therese Austin argued the brazen offence was aggravated by the fact Sleigh was a sworn police officer, who had taken an oath to uphold the law.

She said the victim should have expected to feel safe in such a public place.

"Clearly it was a deliberate, voluntary act... it wasn't invited and there was no mistake," she said.

Defence lawyer Tania Evers said this was a one-off crime, never to be repeated and that her client had faced enormous consequences, including the likelihood of losing his job.

She said Sleigh grossly misperceived the situation with the victim.

"This was a spontaneous, opportunistic, intoxicated act which ceased the minute it was rejected," she said.

The court was told Sleigh, a police officer for 13 years, was selling his home to pay for legal fees and his wife and family were standing by him.

Sleigh's commanding officer Det. Insp. Peter McKenna gave evidence today in support of Sleigh, who he described as an "exceptional police officer" skilled at developing rapport and empathy with victims of crime as well as being a respectful and dedicated family man.

Det. Insp. McKenna said Sleigh was held in such high regard that he was his command's unanimous choice to be its representative at CHOGM.

He said the offence had caused significant damage to the reputation of NSW police, but that Sleigh still had support within the force and his likely dismissal would be a "massive loss" to the community.

He said the offence was completely out of character, but told the court he expected the NSW Police Commissioner to dismiss Sleigh in the wake of his conviction.

"Ian has told me he is totally disgusted in himself... and he shoulders the full responsibility," he said.

Sleigh, who initially faced a more serious charge of sexual penetration without consent before prosecutors accepted his guilty plea to the current charge, refused to comment to waiting media as he left court.

The West Australian

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