29 October 2021

ANU student found not guilty of raping friend while she slept

| Albert McKnight

Chavin Seneviratne, 24, leaves court after the start of his trial. Photo: Albert McKnight

WARNING: This story contains descriptions of alleged sexual assault.

An Australian National University (ANU) student accused of raping his friend while she slept has been found not guilty of all charges against him and cleared of any wrongdoing.

The jury trial for 24-year-old Chavin Seneviratne began before the ACT Supreme Court on Monday (25 October).

During its opening, the jury heard the woman had gone to the Sri Lankan student’s campus dorm room in 2017 sometime after she had been sexually assaulted by another person.

Crown prosecutor Keegan Lee asked her why she went there.

“Because I was really upset and I wanted to stay with someone and have a friend,” she replied.

During closing addresses on Friday (29 October), Mr Lee told jurors the “critical issue” was the messages sent between the pair over Facebook in January 2020.

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He said the pair had been teasing each other and making crude jokes before Mr Seneviratne allegedly admitted to digitally penetrating her that night in 2017. He also said, “I didn’t really get consent”.

Mr Lee said some consensual sexual activity had occurred between them when she had gone to see him in his dorm room, but the alleged digital penetration happened when the woman was asleep.

“She had no idea that the act occurred,” he alleged.

Mr Lee alleged the messages showed a “genuine confession” by Mr Seneviratne to digitally penetrating the woman when she was asleep and unable to give consent, and alleged the messages were driven by his “feelings of guilt about what he had done”.

Mr Lee said Mr Seneviratne denied this was a confession, had said his messages were not supposed to be taken seriously and that the digital penetration that was the subject of the trial happened during consensual sexual activity between the pair.

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On Friday (29 October), the jury returned its verdict after a short deliberation, finding him not guilty of the charge of sexual intercourse without consent as well as not guilty to an alternative charge of committing an act of indecency without consent, clearing him of any wrongdoing.

After the jury was dismissed, Mr Seneviratne was seen shaking hands with his legal team, barrister Ken Archer and Michael Kukulies-Smith of Kamy Saeedi Law.

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 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 6280 0900, and Lifeline 13 11 14. In an emergency call 000.

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