14 February 2022

Former plumber sentenced for assaulting journalist outside Canberra courts

| Albert McKnight
James Raftery leaving court

James Lawrence Michael Raftery, 33, leaves Canberra’s courts after being sentenced for assaulting a journalist. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A former plumber who lashed out at a News Corp journalist who was “simply doing his job” and struck him in the face has been sentenced in the ACT Magistrates Court.

Court documents state on 28 January 2021, James Lawrence Michael Raftery appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court. When he left, three journalists were waiting to photograph him outside the courts.

Raftery approached the trio, picked up one of their camera bags and threw it over their heads, then made a lunging motion at one, making them duck out of the way.

He headed towards the car park outside the courts followed by the News Corp journalist. Raftery, clutching a yellow envelope, swung the papers at the journalist and his hand struck his victim’s face.

The 33-year-old pleaded guilty to a charge of common assault and was sentenced in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (10 February).

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Legal Aid lawyer Georgia Le Couteur claimed he had told the journalists he did not want to be photographed and the “pursuit” of him by the media was a circumstance of provocation.

She said it was a “highly stressful situation for Mr Raftery” and he claimed the media had misrepresented him in previous reports.

Ms Le Couteur noted the victim had reported no injuries.

Prosecutor Lauren Knobel said the News Corp journalist was “simply doing his job” and it was not unusual for the media to take photos of defendants outside the courts.

Magistrate Peter Morrison also said the journalist’s conduct was not illegal and there was no evidence he had been “intrusive”.

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The court heard Raftery had been diagnosed with stage 3 cardiomyopathy last year and had worked as a plumbing contractor until his heart condition became too much for him.

The Hawker resident was convicted and sentenced to an 18-month good behaviour order.

When he left the court that afternoon along with Ms Le Couteur and a supporter, he ignored journalists waiting to take his photograph outside and walked off peacefully.

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