Stephen Milne’s victim says she felt a sense of injustice as he continued his decorated AFL career while she suffered for more than a decade before he admitted indecently assaulting her.
The former St Kilda forward and all-Australian player has avoided a conviction but been fined $15,000, with a sexual assault victims’ group saying he almost got off scot-free.
Victorian County Court Judge Michael Bourke said his decision to spare the unemployed 34-year-old a conviction would aid his job prospects, which he accepted had been destroyed by the high profile incident.
“The evidence is highly persuasive that this offending was out of character,” Judge Bourke said.
“You present 10 years later as a different, more mature and in my view a rehabilitated man.”
Victorian Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) spokeswoman Carolyn Worth said Milne’s punishment didn’t fit the crime.
“It’s an incredibly light penalty,” she said.
“It appears almost as if he’s got off scot-free.”
Ms Worth said the judge’s decision to take into account Milne’s employment prospects sent the wrong message to the victim.
“It doesn’t seem like justice,” she said.
Milne pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of indecent assault after the Office of Public Prosecutions dropped three rape charges.
Despite committing the offence in 2004, Milne wasn’t charged until June 2013 after a police review found the initial investigation was inadequate.
Judge Bourke said the incident and subsequent media publicity had impacted on the victim’s work, family and social life.
“She has felt judged by others, she has been abused, she has felt a sense of injustice,” he said on Tuesday.
Milne indecently assaulted the then 19-year-old while former Saints teammate Leigh Montagna and another woman were on the same bed.
The victim had believed Milne was Mr Montagna.
Judge Bourke said the abuse amounted to a non violent but physical sexual act, and occurred after the victim had been clear in saying no.
“(The victim) did not consent to the act,” Judge Bourke said.
“She did nothing wrong and has not deserved the consequences and effects on her.”
Milne met his victim at the St Kilda Football Club family day in March 2004, the day after the club won the pre-season premiership.
Judge Bourke acknowledged the public scorn Milne and his family had endured in the interim, which included AFL crowds chanting “rapist” when he played.
“You have been the subject of public scrutiny and public abuse,” he said.
“Your family has witnessed and been distressed by this.”
He accepted Milne was forced into premature retirement at the end of the 2013 season and that his employment chances, including his aspirations to coach had been harmed by the charges.