The case of a Far South Coast woman who fell onto a metal fire pit and received serious burns during a house party in Wollongong last winter has been ruled a tragic accident rather than the fault of the man who fell on top of her.
Benjamin O’Brien was charged with reckless grievous bodily harm amid allegations he grabbed Carly Crane in a bear hug on the night of June 25, causing them both to topple over into the fire.
Prosecutors had argued that O’Brien’s alleged actions in taking hold of Ms Crane while she was standing so close to the fire had been reckless.
However, defence lawyers argued O’Brien had been in the process of an involuntary fall when he collided with Ms Crane and the pair went down together.
In Wollongong Local Court on Friday, Magistrate Susan McGowan found the prosecution had not adequately proven its case.
“After considering all the evidence and bearing in mind who bears the onus of proof, I’m of the view that the prosecution has not been able to dispel beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant’s actions when coming into contact with Ms Crane was not involuntary,” she said.
“It seems to me that if Mr O’Brien’s arms had been around Ms Crane in the form of a rugby tackle then perhaps more serious injuries would have been sustained by him.”
The court heard O’Brien had minor injuries, whilst Ms Crane suffered severe burns to her buttocks and legs.
She was taken to Wollongong Hospital for initial treatment then later transferred to the burns unit at Concord Hospital, where she remained for 3.5 weeks.
O’Brien was supported in court by his parents.
Ms Crane was not in court to hear the verdict.
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