A former media adviser to WA’s Treasurer “put his hand up” the dress of a colleague and touched her bare buttock at a staff Christmas party, the Perth Magistrates Court has been told.
Stephen Kaless was the senior media adviser to Treasurer Ben Wyatt in December last year when he is alleged to have indecently assaulted the woman at a Perth hotel bar.
The alleged incident happened during a Christmas function that started about seven hours earlier at a restaurant, before it moved to the bar at Elizabeth Quay.
Mr Kaless denies the allegation.
On the first day of his trial, the woman testified she was standing at the bar waiting for a drink when Mr Kaless put his hand up her dress and into her underwear.
The woman told the court she flinched when she felt his hand on her bottom and quickly walked away.
It all happened in about half to one second, she said.
Text message apology received
The woman testified she went outside and told a friend about the incident, saying she was “a mess” and “couldn’t stop crying”.
She said the friend suggested they ring Mr Wyatt’s chief of staff Roger Martin to report what had happened, which she did.
The woman said she received a call from Mr Kaless the following day, which she did not take, before she received a text in which he apologised “for some truly ordinary behaviour from myself last night which I’ve been made aware of”.
Days later, the woman reported the matter to the police.
Under cross-examination from Mr Kaless’s lawyer Linda Black, the woman denied lying about what happened.
Ms Black suggested that “the problem” was that the woman had told too many people, and it was now “impossible to back down” — a claim the woman denied.
Ms Black said it would have taken more than half or one second for the incident to take place, but the woman said it happened “in however long it took”.
“When it happened … it was extremely quick. It felt like a second to me … I don’t know how long it took,” she said.
CCTV did not capture incident
Ms Black said the incident could not be seen on CCTV footage from the bar, which was played to court today.
The woman agreed it could not be seen from the angle of the camera in the footage, but insisted it did happen.
When asked why she could not be seen flinching on the footage, she replied: “I guess not, it must have been subtle.”
The court heard the woman had told police she had visited two other bars afterwards, and her night had ended then.
However under cross-examination from Ms Black, it was revealed she had gone to a further two bars after that as well.
The woman denied that she had lied to police, testifying she had not told them about the other two bars because she did not think it was relevant.
Underwear thrown in bin
She agreed that she had initially refused to give police her underwear.
She said she had thrown it in the bin because she felt “gross” and did not want to wear it again.
But she retrieved it from the bin when police asked for it and gave it to detectives 10 days later.
The court heard a DNA analysis of the underwear excluded Mr Kaless as being a contributor to the mixed DNA profile found on it.
Ms Black said that earlier on the day of the incident, at the restaurant, there had been “a tiff” between the woman and Mr Kaless about the “secret Santa” gift he had brought to the function.
The court heard he bought cufflinks, which ended up being given to the Treasurer, but that the woman had challenged him for bringing “a gender-specific” present which she did not think was fair.
She said on their way to the restaurant, Mr Kaless had asked her “to hug it out” but she had pushed him away, and asked him to “not touch” her.