30 March 2022

Man admits indecently touching two women at mall, including one in her 70s

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

Lal Ro Puia, 27, pleaded guilty to two counts of committing an act of indecency without consent. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A man admitted he groped or indecently touched two women at a southern Canberra shopping centre, including one aged in her 70s.

Court documents say the older woman was at a store in South.Point Tuggeranong on 1 June 2021 and was speaking to a staff member when she felt Lal Ro Puia press his body against hers from behind.

Puia slid his hands around her hips and down towards her genitals, then the staff member yelled out a phrase like, “Don’t touch the lady”.

The woman turned around, saw Puia standing behind her and walked away. The staff member then also yelled, “Don’t follow the lady; leave her alone”.

He said he had seen Puia attempt to grab her by the shoulder and called security out of concern he would follow her.

“This incident left [the woman] feeling shaken and very confused. She was unsure why someone of the defendant’s age would do that to a woman of her age,” the court documents say.

Also, shortly afterwards, a woman in her 20s was in the mall, talking to another person when she thought she felt a hand briefly tap her buttocks.

She turned around in shock and saw Puia. She asked him if he had just touched her, but he didn’t answer and walked away.

Police said both incidents were recorded on closed-circuit television footage.

On Tuesday (29 March), prosecutor Sam Bargwanna told the ACT Magistrates Court the 27-year-old Queanbeyan man had pleaded guilty to two counts of committing an act of indecency without consent.

Mr Bargwanna said he had not had enough time to collect the two statements detailing the impact of the offences on the victims and requested an adjournment to do so.

Magistrate Louise Taylor said bail was not applied for and formally refused it. She adjourned the matter to 29 April.

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