Backpacker 'sexually assaulted in her sleep'

FOR weeks after a backpacker was sexually assaulted by James Anthony Wilshire, she could not get her attacker's face out of her mind, a Hervey Bay court has heard.

The 22-year-old Gladstone man will spend a month behind bars after he put his hand down the pants of the tourist while she was asleep on a bus travelling between Rockhampton and Gympie.

Wilshire sobbed as he pleaded guilty in Hervey Bay Magistrates Court yesterday to one count of sexual assault and one count of possessing a knife in a public place.

The court heard in May 2016, the 25-year-old victim was travelling down south on a bus with her sister, as part of their backpacking trip around Australia.

Police prosecutor Donna Sperling said Wilshire had been following the victim and her sister around the bus, "touching their feet with his feet, and running his hands through their hair" during the ride.

"The victim was laying down asleep across some seats ... the defendant has reached over and has placed his hand down the victim's pants and underwear," Snr Const Sperling said.

"The victim woke … and asked him what he was doing."

Snr Const Sperling said the two women moved to the front and alerted the bus driver.

The driver called police, and Wilshire was searched after the bus stopped in Hervey Bay.

Snr Const Sperling said that during the search, a flick-knife was found on Wilshire, who said he had forgotten he had it with him at the time.

The court heard segments of the woman's victim impact statement about how the ordeal had affected her.

"For about a month after, I struggled to sleep, I couldn't get his face out of my head," Magistrate Stephen Guttridge read to the court.

"It made me feel dirty and makes my skin crawl. I won't be riding a bus ever again."

Snr Const Sperling said despite Wilshire's hard upbringing, it was no excuse.

"These were backpackers on a trip around Australia, who have been sexually assaulted on a bus," she said.

"[Wilshire has] taken a female in a very vulnerable situation to his advantage."

Wilshire's defence lawyer Hamish Isles said his client had a substance abuse issue, but he had a girlfriend and mother in Gladstone who supported him.

Mr Isles said aside from a burglary charge in 2014, his client was "relatively" well behaved, and had been heavily drinking around the time of the assault.

Magistrate Guttridge told the court the victim had asked Wilshire twice to stop touching her before the assault happened.

He said it was clear the incident had a "significant impact" on the victim.

Wilshire could not stop crying as he was handed down a 12-month sentence for the sexual assault, with a parole release date set for April 7.

Wilshire was convicted and not punished for possessing the knife.

The 22-year-old man sobbed as he was escorted from the courtroom by security to begin his sentence.

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