A Domino’s manager who groped, whipped and made inappropriate comments to eight teenaged workers in Queensland pizza stores claimed to have done so to create a “fun workplace”.
Ashley James Downs, 41, has lost an appeal against his 18-month jail sentence, suspended after five months, handed down in the District Court after he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault and four counts of common assault.
Downs sexually assaulted staff aged between 15 and 17 in 2007 to 2008 and 2017 to 2021.
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The victims went to police in 2021, the District Court and Court of Appeal were told.
His offending was set out in a Court of Appeal judgement handed down on Friday. He:
Came up behind a staff member at a work bench, unclipped her bra and placed his hands on her breast, describing the act as a “hand bra”Slapped a staff member on the bottom as he walked past herSqueezed a staff member’s breasts and said, “look, they are growing”Started to massage a staff member’s shoulder and neck before touching her breastsPressed his body against the back of a staff member while walking past herPunched a staff member in the breast and said, “I can tell you’re wearing a push-up bra”Whipped a staff member on the bottom with an apron. When she complained, he said, “toughen up, princess”Whipped a staff member on the bottom with an apron againSmacked a staff member on the bottomGrazed his hand over a staff member’s breasts while grabbing a pizza ingredient
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Groped a staff member on her bottom and breast as he stood behind her while training herTickled a staff member in the cold room. He grazed her breasts with his hands and picked her up from the floor, causing her to scream loudlyBrushed his hand against a staff member’s breasts as he handed her a uniformPushed his bottom into the stomach of a staff member as she was taking something out of an oven. He said, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding, I’m only joking”, when she froze.
Downs told one of his victims he was “just mucking around” and “just trying to be fun” when she confronted him in a phone call about touching her breasts.
In sentencing, Judge Jennifer Rosengren rejected his claims that he was driven by a desire to “create a fun workplace”.
“While the offending might be at the bottom of any possible range of seriousness for these offences, the circumstances of this offending involves the exploitation of young employees while you were in a position of authority,” Rosengren said.
“Your conduct persisted over a lengthy period of time.
“You took advantage of the power in the relationship with you as the employer to engage in sexual acts which were not welcomed by them.
A manager at Dominos pizza stores in Queensland has been jailed for sexually assaulting staff. Credit: AAP
“I am satisfied that you understood the nature of your actions in sexually assaulting these various complainants, that you were able to control your actions, but you chose not to, and that you knew that you should not have been engaging in this kind of offending.”
Two of the victims who provided the court with victim impact statements said there had been “long-lasting” impacts of his offending.
Downs appealed on the grounds the sentence was manifestly excessive and he should have instead been given a wholly suspended sentence.
He argued he was a low risk of reoffending, had shown remorse and had taken steps towards rehabilitation.
However the court rejected his appeal, finding his original sentence was not “outside the bounds of the proper exercise of the sentencing discretion”.
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