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Ajay Chopra jailed for sexually assaulting women on regional train services

Date

Adam Cooper

A man who told one of five women he sexually assaulted on a regional train service to ‘‘have a nice life’’ must spend at least 10 months in jail.

County Court judge Gerard Mullaly, in imposing a head sentence of 21 months on Ajay Chopra, said stern punishment awaited men who put their own "perverse sexual pleasure" above the rights of women.

"The sexual assault of fellow female passengers on public transport is shameful and dishonourable," judge Mullaly said on Monday.

"Decent men do not do this."

Chopra, 41, separately assaulted the women, aged between 18 and 30, while on the V/Line service between Melbourne and Bendigo between June and August 2011.

Chopra, of Bendigo, either assaulted the women, or tried to, when he took their hands claiming to be a palm reader and either put a woman's hand on his crotch, or put his hand on or near their crotch, or both.

Prosecutor Neill Hutton said one of the victims felt Chopra's erect penis under her hand and that the offender also put his hand up the woman's dress.

"This continued until the offender got off the train at Bendigo. He turned (to the victim) and said 'Have a nice have a nice life', as he did so," Mr Hutton said.

Chopra, who was travelling to and from Melbourne to work at a Telstra store, pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault and two charges of attempted indecent assault.

The court heard Chopra's offending escalated in seriousness and that he had initially denied the charges, but changed his plea to guilty to "save face" with his family.

Defence counsel Mark Hird said a psychological assessment found Chopra "doesn't want to face up to (the offending) rather than enter a genuine plea of guilty".

Judge Mullaly said Chopra's "shameful and concerning behaviour" had had a profound and lasting impact on his victims, significantly because of the delay in between the offending and sentencing.

The court was told one victim had suffered a severe blow to her self-confidence and was anxious, distrustful and felt constantly disappointed with herself.

Another, the judge said, had fought "a losing battle" against depression in the years since she was assaulted and felt she had lost two-and-a-half years of her life.

Judge Mullaly said the delay between offending and sentencing had "compounded" the problems of victims and that the public was entitled to an explanation.

He said the Bendigo court complex had only one court room equipped for trials by jury, and as a result, Chopra's case was delayed until he pleaded guilty because of a backlog of cases.

Judge Mullaly said cities of a similar size to Bendigo had addressed shortages of adequate court rooms to hear jury trials.

"Bendigo stands apart and its citizens must wait too long to have cases heard," he said.

Judge Mullaly said Chopra's crimes also had a "corrosive" effect on the community because they added "to the unfortunate sense of fear that women have, that public transport is not safe".

Chopra, who was supported in court by his wife, will have his name put on the sex offenders registry for life.

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