The case of a Sovereign Hill employee, who sexually assaulted a co-worker, should act as a therapeutic lesson to how sexual assaults could occur, a magistrate has said.
Mark William Burnett escaped a conviction at the Ballarat Magistrates Court on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault by grabbing the woman's breasts.
Magistrate Ross Maxted adjourned the case for six months and ordered the 43-year-old to pay $400 to Safe Theatres Australia.
The court was told Burnett and the complainant, aged in her 20s, were working at the outdoor museum when the incident occurred some time between September and October 2016.
The woman was at the back of the Victoria Theatre looking at costumes to change into when she turned around and saw Burnett walking towards her with his hands up.
The dramatic interpreter grabbed hold of her breasts and squeezed them, the court was told.
The complainant did not want her victim impact statement read to the court, but police prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Lisa Schoemaker said she was scared and felt anxious every time she saw Burnett.
The woman reported the incident to police in October 2017 and an internal investigation followed in August 2018 after The Courier earlier revealed sexual harassment allegations at the outdoor museum.
Sovereign Hill stood Burnett down with full pay for several months until his employment was terminated in November 2018.
His working with children's check remains in doubt, the court was told.
Defence lawyer Graham Hills submitted his client be fined without conviction, given he had no prior offences, but said this would not lessen the impact on the complainant.
He said media reports of the incident had affected Burnett's reputation within the community.
Mr Hills said his client began working at Sovereign Hill in 2009 and worked his way up to a reasonable high-profile role.
He said he wandered the streets in costume, exchanged banter with other employees and at one point, was responsible for school groups.
Mr Hills said Burnett was required to change costumes from time to time.
He said the incident was not premeditated but opportunistic and a 'one-off'.
In sentencing Burnett, Maxted said he had lived an unblemished life in Ballarat and contributed to the community.
He said the sentence would act as a therapeutic lesson to Burnett and Sovereign Hill to how sexual assaults could occur.
Mr Maxted said communication between everyone working in the theatre industry was paramount at a time where similar behaviour had come to light.
Burnett's father supported him in court.
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