Home gardener jailed for sex assault


By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A Dandenong man serving a drug treatment order has terrified a neighbour by breaking into her house and snuggling up to her in bed, the Victorian County Court has heard.

Anthony Webster, 53, who pleaded guilty to sexual assault and trespass, had broken in without the victim’s knowledge and permission, Judge Howard Mason said during sentencing on 28 May.

In the previous 18 months, Webster had been paid to mow lawns and clear gutters for the mother-of-two but there had been no romantic relationship, Judge Mason said.

Webster had spoken to her “flirtatiously” in the past, but she had not “entertained” these advances, Judge Mason said.

On a late morning in February 2018, he presumably entered the house through a back door left unlocked for the victim’s cats.

While the victim drifted to sleep, he opened her bedroom door and slid behind her in bed.

Her two children were at home at the time.

Webster was immediately told to leave. He repeatedly apologised, and was shown out the front door.

“Your offending whilst in the low range for a charge of sexual assault remains an act that caused great fear and anxiety for your victim,” Judge Mason said.

“It amounted to a very brazen and terrifying experience for the victim.”

At the time of the offence, Webster was serving a 14-month drug-treatment order at Dandenong Drug Court for stalking and family-violence intervention order breaches.

The community-based DTO was in lieu of serving a jail term. Upon the DTO’s cancellation last year, the Dandenong Magistrates’ Court re-sentenced him to 221 days in jail.

Webster had an “extensive” criminal history including weapons, driving, violence, drugs and dishonesty offences, but no priors for sexual assault, the County Court heard.

He endured a difficult, abusive childhood, struggles at school and history of heavy ‘ice’ and alcohol abuse, Judge Mason noted.

Webster suffered an acquired brain injury caused by head traumas and poly-substance abuse, as well as depression and anxiety.

He was not equipped to managing the demands of daily life without assistance, according to a neuropsychologist’s report to the court.

Webster’s prospects for rehabilitation were “guarded”, but improved under a corrections justice plan that would better manage his mild intellectual disability, Judge Mason noted.

Webster was jailed for 257 days for the sexual assault and trespass – a period already served in pre-sentence custody.

Webster also appealed against the 221-day jail term imposed in 2018 after his DTO was cancelled.

Judge Mason set aside that jail time, instead sentencing Webster to a two-year community corrections order with supervision, mental health and drug treatment.