Darwin man found not guilty of assault outside casino

By William Brown Updated
Darwin man found not guilty of assault outside casino

A Darwin man who spent more than 100 days in prison has been found not guilty of aggravated assault outside of Mindil Beach Casino in July.

The ABC reports that 44-year-old Zarak Bolga pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault after a woman was attacked outside the casino last July.

Mr Bolga was jailed on August 25, but granted bail last week after his lawyer tendered CCTV evidence to the court, which showed an unidentified woman was allegedly involved in the assault outside the casino, not Mr Bolga.

Mr Bolga’s lawyer, Patrick McNally subpoenaed a copy of the CCTV footage from the casino.

In court, the prosecution made a last-minute update to the circumstances surrounding Mr Bolga’s charges, claiming the incident happened at an unknown location after the victim left the casino.

When prosecutor Lee Campbell attempted to ask the victim what happened after the casino incident, the victim couldn’t establish whether Mr Bolga had been involved in an attack against her.

The victim said she went to the Darwin Esplanade after being at the casino and was involved in a fight with a man and was then attacked by two women.

Ms Campbell asked again who was with her at the esplanade and the victim did not name Mr Bolga.

Judge Alan Woodcock found Mr Bolga not guilty due to the victim’s incoherent version of events.

“She initially says the defendant wasn’t there, then says ‘He was there, he was with them’,” Judge Woodcock told the court.

“Sadly, it’s a confused, alcohol affected account…it is not capable of sustaining a finding of guilt on any onus beyond reasonable doubt.”

The court heard Mr Bolga and the victim were drinking alcohol at Mindil Beach Casino from about 10pm on the day of the assault, until the venue closed.

The victim’s impact statement tendered in court named Mr Bolga as the alleged offender in an assault, but when pressed by Ms Campbell in court about the location and offenders involved in the incident, the victim could only recall being assaulted by two women as captured in the CCTV.

“They were punching and kicking me…I got hit, my face was all swollen up…their clothes were all blood,” the victim told the court.

Ms Campbell attempted to call a police officer in charge of the case as a witness in court, after claiming in court the defendant’s family being present in the court building could have been “contaminating” her evidence.

Judge Woodcock rejected hearing from further witnesses and said he couldn’t see how it would corroborate or clarify the victim’s evidence.

Following the court outcome, Assistant Commissioner Michael White confirmed NT Police were reviewing the circumstances that lead to the failed prosecution.

NT Police also confirmed it is engaging with the victim to determine whether she wishes to pursue a complaint of assault against two women she told the court allegedly assaulted her.

Staff axed as Darwin casino makes cuts

Staff at Darwin’s Mindil Beach Casino Resort will be laid off and dozens of casual staff will see their hours reduced as part of a drastic restructure.

NT News reported in October that 12 full-time and part-time roles will be axed and 200 casual staff will have their shifts cut in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, with more cuts to follow if business conditions don’t improve.

Owner of the casino, Delaware North, told the NT News it had to continue to make difficult decisions necessary to stabilise the company in the wake of the pandemic.

General manager Mark Bennett said while the company was hopeful next year will see operations return to normal, the business conditions will continue to be monitored as will the subsequent effect on operations and its impact on workforce.

The company foreshadowed cuts with the end of the government’s JobKeeper funding.

Mr Bennett said the number of full-time and part-time team members who were leaving their casino resort were lower than originally anticipated.

“With Mindil Beach Casino Resort ceasing to be eligible for the government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy from September 28, we have engaged in close consultation with the United Workers Union to review our operational requirements and determine the subsequent impact of this development on our team members,” Mr Bennett said.

“This development, combined with the increased severity and extended duration of the pandemic, have led us to make the difficult but necessary decision to implement a restructure process which has reduced the size of our workforce.

“For those team members whose positions were made redundant, it became clear that their roles would not return in the foreseeable future.

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