A Prominent PNG Businessman, Lawyer, and Former Chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea Admitted to Groping a Teenage Girl in an Australian Hotel Room. A university chancellor and prominent Papua New Guinea businessman has admitted to groping a teenage girl in an Australian hotel room because he believed he was in a “cultural marriage” with her. PNG cultural laws and traditions are not recognized in Australia, leading to the man pleading guilty to two counts of indecent treatment of a 15-year-old child in Brisbane District Court on Friday. Jeffrey Kennedy, 38, is a businessman, lawyer, and former chancellor of the University of PNG. His character references included letters from PNG’s Attorney-General and Mining Minister.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA UNIVERSITY CHANCELLOR GROPED TEEN GIRL HE WAS IN A 'CULTURAL MARRIAGE' WITH
By Toby Crockford, October 14, 2022 — 7.53pm.
A university chancellor and prominent Papua New Guinea businessman has admitted to groping a teenage girl in an Australian hotel room because he believed he was in a “cultural marriage” with her.
PNG cultural laws and traditions are not recognized in Australia, leading to the man pleading guilty to two counts of indecent treatment of a 15-year-old child in Brisbane District Court on Friday.
Jeffrey Kennedy, 38, is a businessman, lawyer, and former chancellor of the University of PNG. His character references included letters from PNG’s Attorney-General and Mining Minister.
In a statement read to the court, the victim said her life was “turned upside down” by the incident.
“After the incident occurred, I could hardly sleep, always wondering if something was going to happen … every time I did manage to go to sleep, all I could think about was the act,” she wrote.
Crown prosecutor David Nardone said Kennedy was visiting Brisbane in 2019 and staying at a hotel near the CBD. He and the victim were in the hotel room when the incident occurred.
“Mr. Kennedy sat with the complainant on the couch. He asked the complainant if he could kiss her, she didn’t reply,” Nardone said.
“He put his arms around her and started kissing her on the mouth and his tongue entered her mouth.
“While he continued to hold her and continued to kiss her, he started to stroke her leg with his hand and moved his hand up to her stomach and put his hand into her shorts.
“He moved his hand around her shorts and ultimately onto her vaginal area.”
The victim estimates the groping lasted for 5-10 minutes.
Australian Federal Police were made aware of the incident when the victim told one of her friends in PNG and that friend’s father made a police complaint.
Kennedy was interviewed when he next visited Australia.
“There was, or was to be, a cultural marriage between Mr Kennedy and the complainant. She [the complainant] confirms there was at least one in an informal way,” Nardone said.
“Nonetheless, the offence was committed against a child in Queensland, a jurisdiction whereby there is clear legislation that offending of a sexual nature against a child under 16 is prohibited, no matter the circumstances of the two involved or the customs or traditions of another nation.”
Barrister Craig Eberhardt, representing Kennedy, said his client discussed a cultural marriage with the victim’s mother in 2018, and they took vows a year later.
“He, at all times, believed [the victim] was a consenting party to the marriage and the sexual activity, he says he has absolutely no interest in forcing [the victim] to be his wife and he will in due course consent to a cultural divorce in PNG,” Eberhardt said.
The charges against Kennedy carried a maximum penalty of 20 years’ jail.
However, Judge Katherine McGinness decided to let Kennedy walk free on Friday.
“You are a very well-respected businessman, you have a degree in law, and references … about the great contributions you have made to your local community and the community of PNG,” she said.
“I note that this whole relationship was with the consent of the complainant’s mother and with the consent perhaps of the child. Although that is why we have such laws here in Australia – to protect young and vulnerable children from having to make decisions such as that.”
McGinness ordered Kennedy serve 18 months in prison, but that sentence was immediately suspended for a period of two years.
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