A Domino’s manager who groped, whipped and made inappropriate comments to eight teenage workers at pizza shops in Queensland said he did so to create a “fun workplace”.
Ashley James Downs, 41, has lost an appeal against his 18-month prison sentence, suspended after five months, handed down in the District Court after pleading guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault and four counts of grievous bodily harm.
Downs sexually abused employees between the ages of 15 and 17 in 2007 to 2008 and 2017 to 2021.
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The victims went to the police in 2021, the District Court and the Court of Appeal were told.
His offense was outlined in an appeal court ruling handed down on Friday. He:
- Came up behind a female employee at a workbench, unhooked her bra and placed his hands on her breasts, describing the act as a “hand bra.”
- Smack an employee on the butt as he walked past her
- Squeeze a coworker’s breasts and say, “Look, they’re growing.”
- Started massaging an employee’s shoulder and neck before touching her breasts
- He pressed his body against the back of a staff member as he walked past her
- Punched a co-worker on the chest and said, “I notice you’re wearing a push-up bra.”
- Slammed an employee wearing an apron to the floor. When she complained, he said, “Be harder, Princess.”
- Another employee hit the floor with an apron
- Smacked an employee on the ass
- Brushed his hand over an employee’s breasts while grabbing a pizza ingredient
- Groped an employee on her butt and breasts as he stood behind her and trained her
- Tickled an employee in the cold room. He touched her breasts with his hands and picked her up from the floor, making her scream loudly
- He ran his hand over a female employee’s breasts as he handed her a uniform
- He pushed his butt into an employee’s stomach as she took something out of the oven. He said, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding, I’m just kidding,” as she froze.
Downs told one of his victims that he was “just messing around” and “just trying to be fun” when she confronted him about touching her breasts in a phone call.
In sentencing, Judge Jennifer Rosengren rejected his claims that he was driven by a desire to “create a fun workplace.”
“While the offense may be at the lower end of all possible levels of severity for these offenses, the circumstances of this offense involve the exploitation of young employees while in a position of authority,” Rosengren said.
“Their behavior continued over a long period of time.
“They took advantage of the power in their relationship with you as an employer to carry out sexual acts that were not desired by them.
“I am satisfied that you understood the nature of your actions in sexually assaulting these various complainants, that you could control your actions but chose not to, and that you knew you should not have committed this type of offense .” .”
Two of the victims who provided victim impact statements to the court said his offending had had a “long-lasting” impact.
Downs appealed on the grounds that the sentence was manifestly excessive and that he should have received a full suspended sentence instead.
He argued he was at low risk of reoffending and had shown remorse and taken steps toward rehabilitation.
However, the court rejected his appeal on the grounds that his original sentence did not fall “outside the bounds of the proper exercise of sentencing discretion.”