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Jury unable to reach verdict on Sydney chiropractor accused of sexually assaulting patient

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 8/04/2021 Jenny Noyes
Riaz Behi leaves during a break in proceedings at NSW District Court © AAP Riaz Behi leaves during a break in proceedings at NSW District Court

A jury in the sexual assault trial of Sydney chiropractor Riaz Behi has been discharged after it was unable to reach a verdict.

Mr Behi, 45, is accused of removing the patient's underwear and performing a number of unwanted sexual acts on her while treating her for lower back pain at his Sydney CBD clinic over the court of 17 appointments between January and April 2019.

He denied the charges, pleading not guilty to 13 offences in the NSW District Court - five counts of sexual intercourse without consent and eight counts of aggravated sexual touching without consent.

On Thursday, following almost five hours of deliberations and a trial that ran just over five weeks, a jury of five women and seven men indicated to the court that they were unable to reach a majority verdict, "or indeed a unanimous decision on any of the charges".

According to the Crown case, Mr Behi's inappropriate touching began as early as the first session when he allegedly put his hands inside the woman's underwear, but the offences with which he was charged did not begin until the sixth appointment, and it wasn't until her ninth appointment, on February 12, that the woman told him she just wanted a regular massage and to stop the sexual touching.

However, she continued to see Mr Behi for more treatment, and alleged he sexually assaulted her another six times.

The woman, a Japanese national with limited English, told the court she used Google Translate to communicate with Mr Behi, and under cross-examination during the trial said she had thought Mr Behi was "kind" and that she could trust him not to continue with inappropriate sexual contact after she told him to stop.

She said on some occasions she "wanted to say something" but did not.

The court heard the woman had studied massage in Bali, where she learned to keep her hands 20 centimetres from clients' private parts.

Mr Behi took the witness stand during the trial, and denied each of the charges against him.

However, he did say that during an appointment on February 14, which was not the subject of any charges, the complainant took his hand and placed it on her genital area during his treatment of her. Under cross-examination, the woman denied this.

Mr Behi told the court he only informed his wife of what he said occurred on February 14 after he was charged.

In his closing statements, Defence barrister William Brewer submitted that the jury would reject what the woman said on each of the counts.

He said the most powerful consideration was why the woman, especially given her prior massage training, would continue to attend subsequent appointments if her allegations were true.

He said she was repeatedly "trotting out" the language barrier as an excuse for the "illogicality" of her actions, referring to her making "no attempt to stop the alleged offending" and continuing to return for more treatment.

"The way she has responded to inquiries about her actions just do not make sense," Mr Brewer said.

"There is no reason that anyone could comprehend that has been offered to answer the question that still remains. It is no doubt the first question that will come to your collective minds when you come to deliberate on this case: Why did she go back?"

He said her assertion at one point that Mr Behi "sneered" at her when she was in pain "was a complete invention".

The complainant had not mentioned anything about sneering before, he said, labelling it "another example of the complainant feeling that she is rising to the moment and absolutely asserting what a cruel nasty man the accused is."

The defence called nine character witnesses, including former employees at Mr Behi's clinic who described him as a "good person" and said they were "absolutely shocked" and "very surprised" when they heard about the charges.

The matter will return to court on May 6.

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