US Navy seaman fined HK$1,000 for grabbing woman's breast in Wan Chai

US Navy crew member must pay HK$1,000 for assaulting cleaner after drinking in Wan Chai

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 May, 2013, 3:28am

A United States Navy crewman was yesterday fined HK$1,000 for grabbing a woman's breast after a night of drinking in Wan Chai last month.

Matthew Forrester, 25, pleaded not guilty to one count of indecent assault, but pleaded guilty to the prosecution's alternative charge of common assault.

Eastern Court heard that on the night of April 17, the victim, a 46-year-old waitress, was doing cleaning work on the pavement outside a restaurant on Lockhart Road.

She was facing the restaurant with her back to the road when she suddenly felt her right breast being grabbed from behind her. When she turned around, she saw Forrester retrieving his right hand, the court heard.

The crewman left, but the woman followed him and called the police. He was later arrested outside the Wan Chai Pier.

Forrester was in Hong Kong with some 4,000 sailors and marines for the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu and landing vessels USS Rushmore and USS Green Bay's stopover from April 15 to 19.

Solicitor Niall Giblin, for the defence, said Forrester admitted he "had taken too much alcohol".

The crewman collided with the woman, but he "does not accept that there is any sexual nature involved", Giblin said. Forrester "may have used too much force in extracting" his hand, he said.

Forrester, who enlisted in the US Navy in May last year, holds the rank of E3, Giblin said.

According to the United States' Department of Defence website, the rank of E3, with E9 being the highest, corresponds with seaman.

In mitigation, Giblin said Forrester would be subject to disciplinary proceedings when he returned to the Navy. He would likely be demoted, the lawyer said.

Forrester offered the woman a face-to-face apology and HK$20,000 compensation during a short adjournment.

After the adjournment, Magistrate Li Kwok-wai said that the apology and compensation indicated Forrester had shown remorse.

Li said the crewman had "learned a bitter lesson" and hoped he would think twice before consuming alcohol in the future.