16 July 2023

Man accused of sexually assaulting teen in vehicle granted bail

| Albert McKnight
ACT Law Courts Photo: Michelle Kroll Region Media

Liam Anthony Thornton, 24, has been granted bail over an alleged sexual assault. Photo: Michelle Kroll, Region Media.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to an alleged sexual assault.

A man accused of picking up a teenager and putting her into a vehicle before sexually assaulting her cried and wiped his eyes with tissues when applying to be released on bail.

It is alleged Liam Anthony Thornton had earlier tried to kiss the complainant several times despite her objections, court documents claim.

Then in July 2023, it is alleged he messaged her on the social media application Snapchat to tell her he wanted to have sex with her, sending her so many messages that she felt overwhelmed.

Ultimately, she went to see him in person to tell him to stop messaging her. He was in a vehicle and when she got to it, he allegedly picked her up by her arms, put her down inside and closed the door.

It is alleged she told him, “This isn’t a good idea” and that she didn’t want to have sex.

But he allegedly forced her down and grabbed her around her neck, making her feel scared. It is alleged he then raped her.

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The next day, Mr Thornton allegedly sent her Snapchat messages.

“I feel really bad about my decision I don’t want to lose [a woman’s name] I feel terrible if we can just not talk about it ever again I’m sorry [sic],” one message allegedly said.

Another message allegedly said, “Also gonna sounds weird but let me know when it’s that time if the month that way it puts my mind at easy that your not pregnant haha [sic]”.

Police spoke to Mr Thornton at his home in Isabella Plains on Wednesday (12 July). He claimed he had asked the complainant for her consent multiple times during the incident in the vehicle and she had told him yes.

Mr Thornton, a long-time employee and volunteer at the Canberra Reptile Zoo, was arrested and appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (13 July) where he pleaded not guilty to all of his charges.

These were three counts each of sexual intercourse without consent and committing an act of indecency without consent, two counts each of assault and attempted sexual intercourse without consent, as well as a single count of choking.

The prosecutor opposed his bail application due to the complainant’s concerns that Mr Thornton could continue to contact her.

She alleged he had sent “almost a bombardment” of messages to the complainant, including one suggesting that she not talk about the alleged incident again due to the risk of him losing someone.

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However, defence lawyer Carley Hitchins from Aulich said her client had no criminal history and had never been in trouble before.

She argued the prosecution’s concerns could be alleviated by conditions.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston said he thought bail conditions could address the complainant’s concerns and granted bail.

The conditions included that Mr Thornton not contact the complainant, not enter her home suburb and not use Snapchat.

The matter was adjourned to 21 September.

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