29 November 2023

Child abuser Stephen Mitchell fights allegations he indecently assaulted adult

| Albert McKnight
Stephen Leonard Mitchell

Stephen Leonard Mitchell approaches the courthouse earlier this year. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to alleged sexual abuse.

A former rock-climbing coach previously convicted of child abuse is fighting allegations he indecently assaulted a woman in her 20s during a self-defence lesson.

Stephen Leonard Mitchell contested his charge of committing an act of indecency without consent at an ACT Magistrates Court hearing this week (28 November).

The woman met him through a youth club when she was in her early teens, but they stayed in touch as she grew up, she said in her interview with police.

In the 2010s, she was in her 20s and was trying to leave a violent relationship when she alleged she met up with him in Canberra.

“Come on, I’ll show you some defence moves so you can protect yourself when you go home,” she alleged Mitchell told her, adding she didn’t ask him to teach her.

She claimed he spent 10 minutes showing her different self-defence moves. She alleged that towards the end of this session, he pressed his genitals into the back of her body a few times.

“It felt extremely uncomfortable,” the woman claimed.

“I just wanted to end it.”

She alleged she told him, “I’ve got it”, referring to the defence moves, and he stopped the lesson. She stopped speaking to him a few years later.

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In the courtroom, prosecutor David Swan asked the woman about what had led to Mitchell allegedly giving her the lesson.

“He just kept on wanting to show me these defence moves,” she said.

Stephen Mitchell.

Stephen Leonard Mitchell fought his charge against the woman at a hearing this week. Photo: Albert McKnight.

The woman became emotional at times during cross-examination from defence barrister Ramesh Rajalingam, including when she said her whole relationship with Mitchell had been “a bloody lie”.

She said she had known him for so long, part of her felt like, “I’ve got it wrong”.

“But I’m not stupid,” she said.

She did admit that Mitchell never forced her to do the lesson and that parts of her memory from that time were “cloudy”.

“Is your memory of this particular day poor?” Mr Rajalingam asked her.

“I remember what made me feel uncomfortable, that’s what I remember,” she replied.

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Mr Rajalingam also asked her about a comment she had made to police, in which she said: “I can’t say that he’s done it on purpose”.

“I feel like my words are being twisted,” she replied.

“Going in and even making a statement is a lot.”

The court heard Mitchell was training in self-defence at a gym at the time.

Magistrate Jane Campbell will hand down her decision on the matter on 15 December.

Earlier this year, the then-57-year-old was sentenced to 13 years and five months’ jail for sexually abusing six children between the mid-1990s and the late 2000s.

He has since launched an appeal over his sentence.

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