Thursday, 22 May 2008

Paramedic not guilty of raping patient

A paramedic accused of digitally raping a drug-affected woman in the back of an ambulance was found not guilty today following a three-day trial.

Simon Paul Howe, 33, was one of two paramedics who attended to the woman in Little Collins Street after she was escorted out of the Bubble nightclub by staff.

He pleaded not guilty to to digital rape and indecent assault alleged to have taken place in the ambulance on the way to the Royal Melbourne Hospital about 6am on November 5, 2006.

During the trial Mr Howe's counsel, Peter Morrissey, described the allegations as "weird" and said his client was trying to restrain the woman who was thrashing her legs and arms around and masturbating loudly throughout the ambulance ride and at the hospital.

At the time of the incident the woman, 23, who cannot be named, was under the influence of amphetamines (speed), methamphetamines (ice) and GHB.

She told the court she had snorted speed about 11.30pm the previous evening because "it wakes you up and gets you dancing" - but believed her drink was spiked with other drugs when she left it on a podium to hit the dance floor with friends.

A blood test conducted by police revealed the presence of all three drugs in her blood. There were also traces of cannabis, which she admitted using a couple of days earlier.

The woman said she was "out of it" after having the drink and had only a hazy recollection of what followed.

She said Mr Howe was in the back of the ambulance, and another paramedic was driving, when he leant over her and put his hand down her pants.

The woman said he also placed her hand on his crotch in the ambulance.

After she was admitted to hospital, she said Mr Howe came into a cubicle where she was lying down and asked "if I wanted to catch up outside here", which she refused.

But Mr Morrissey said his client was simply trying to restrain the woman.

"Howe says there was plenty of physical contact in the ambulance. He was restraining her during the six-minute trip because she was behaving so erratically," he told the court.

Ultimately the jury agreed, and County Court Judge Geoff Chettle told Mr Howe he was free to go.

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