Man's words to dad after kissing toddler
A 29-year-old man accused of kissing a toddler, who he didn't know, twice on the lips at a popular Sydney tourist attraction told the young boy's parents "I'm sorry" after the incident, a court has heard.
Indian national Nikhil Bhatia appeared at Sydney's Central Local Court today by audio link from Surry Hills police station where he has been in custody following the incident on Sunday afternoon.
Magistrate Robert Williams agreed with the prosecution that Mr Bhatia, who is on a short-term tourist visa, was a flight risk and so should remain in custody.
He said it was likely a jail sentence would be imposed if he was found guilty of intentionally sexually touching a child under 10 years of age, an offence that can lead to 16 years in prison. Mr Bahtia's lawyer indicated he would plead not guilty and jail time was "not inevitable".
Dressed in a grey and orange T-shirt and sporting glasses and a close cropped beard, Mr Bhatia said nothing aside from acknowledging his name.
Police allege that yesterday at about 5pm, Mr Bhatia approached the two-year-old boy who was in a pram at the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium in Darling Harbour.
It is alleged he initially touched the boy's head and then his hands.
"He then lowered himself down and using the arms of the child drew himself in before kissing him twice on the lips," said the police prosecutor.
He was then pushed away by the child's father.
"Once the child's parents' intervened the accused reacted by saying 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," the prosecutor said. Police allege that showed he was aware of the gravity of what had occurred.
"He went on to tell police (the act) was a cultural difference. Your honour I ask you to accept he knew what he was doing was wrong and unacceptable in the community."
The prosecutor added that Mr Bhatia had gained "gratification" from kissing the child.
The tourist had been in Australia for seven days prior to the alleged offence. Police have said that because he had no community ties in Australia and was here for only a short term there was a risk he would fail to appear at future court dates.
Sharon Ramsden, representing Mr Bahtia, said the alleged actions were on the lower end of the scale of the offence he was charged with and there was no suggestion he had touched the child's genitalia. She argued that given that, and the surrender of his passport, he should be allowed free on bail.
Ms Ramsden said he intended to plead not guilty to the offence.
"This is not a situation where it's an open-and-shut prosecution case where a custodial sentence would be inevitable," she said.
However, Magistrate Williams said there was a strong chance of jail time if he was found guilty: "It is likely a custodial sentence would be imposed for this offence. On the basis of that there is a risk of a failure to appear and issues of flight."
He refused bail and ordered Mr Bhatia remain in custody. The case will return to court on February 4.