16 December 2021

AFP officer cleared of indecency charge as magistrate left 'uncertain to where truth lies'

| Albert McKnight

Ivan Bruno Kovacic, 52, leaving court earlier this year. Photo: Albert McKnight.

WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of an alleged sexual assault.

A magistrate said she was “left uncertain as to where the truth lies” before acquitting an Australian Federal Police officer who had been accused of forcing a woman to touch his genitals.

The charge of committing an act of indecency without consent laid against 52-year-old Ivan Bruno Kovacic was dismissed in the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday (15 December).

When the hearing against him began in October, the court heard he met the woman, aged in her 20s, in his apartment complex near Glebe Park in November 2019, and she and two of her colleagues eventually went back to his unit.

There, Mr Kovacic allegedly made racist comments and punched one of her male colleagues in the face.

The woman said her colleague punched him back, causing Mr Kovacic to slump against the wall and leaving “blood everywhere”.

She alleged she took Mr Kovacic to his bed and wiped the blood off him, but he tried to kiss her, repeatedly pulled her hand onto his penis, then pulled her on top of him and tried to pull her pants down.

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The woman and her two colleagues all gave evidence during the hearing.

Before dismissing the charge on Wednesday, Magistrate Louise Taylor said it was not a matter of whether she was satisfied witnesses had lied, but she also couldn’t be sure that they hadn’t.

She said the level of intoxication of the woman and her two colleagues had impacted their reliability, as did the way they downplayed that factor on their credibility.

She found there were gaps in the woman’s memory. For example, she didn’t know how she allegedly came to be on top of Mr Kovacic’s body and had no memory of one of the colleague’s returning to the apartment after the alleged incident, even though he said he did.

Magistrate Taylor said even allowing for the impact of trauma, the gaps in her memory were significant.

She found the suggestion Mr Kovacic had made the three uncomfortable leading up to the alleged incident difficult to reconcile alongside the length of time they spent with him.

However, Magistrate Taylor accepted he had used racial terminology and this language was likely the catalyst for the group deciding to leave the apartment.

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The woman had been upset after the alleged incident, and Magistrate Taylor said “her level of distress speaks to something occurring in the defendant’s apartment”, but also that the distress could not displace the concerns she had over the “bulk” of other evidence.

She noted, as observed by Mr Kovacic’s lawyer, Tim Sharman of Tim Sharman Solicitors, this distress was not inconsistent with her seeing Mr Kovacic knocked out.

Magistrate Taylor found the offence not proven and dismissed the charge.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 02 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 02 6280 0900, and Lifeline 13 11 14. In an emergency call 000.

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