FLOATING FRESH EVIDENCE: Mark Andrew Thomson is accused of assaulting surfer Jodie Cooper on the morning of August 22 last year after his surf mat collided with her surfboard on a crowded day at Lennox Head.
FLOATING FRESH EVIDENCE: Mark Andrew Thomson is accused of assaulting surfer Jodie Cooper on the morning of August 22 last year after his surf mat collided with her surfboard on a crowded day at Lennox Head. Marc Stapelberg

Lennox man denies holding woman's head under water in surf

UPDATE 10am: A verdict in the hearing of assault allegations against a Lennox Head man is expected to be handed down today.

Mark Andrew Thomson, 58, has pleaded not guilty to one count of assault and one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Mr Thomson faced Ballina Local Court for a second hearing day into the August 22, 2018 incident on Thursday.

His alleged victim, former pro surfer Jodie Cooper, was among the witnesses who gave evidence in an earlier hearing date in April.

Police allege Mr Thomson held Ms Cooper under the water in the surf at Lennox Head after an incident in which he allegedly "dropped in" on a wave she was riding.

He has denied the allegations.

As the hearing continued this week, Mr Thomson was called to give evidence.

He told the court his alleged victim had been aggressive towards him.

He recalled an earlier struggle with what he saw as an "unknown entity" attacking him from beneath.

A second defence witness, Mr Thomson's neighbour Terry Chandler, told the court he was nearby in the surf the day of the incident.

Mr Chandler recalled the water being "very, very busy" with "at least 100 people" in the surf.

He told the court he saw Ms Cooper "launch towards Mark's back" as the accused lay face-down on his the surf mat he was riding.

Mr Chandler said he didn't see Ms Cooper land in the water or connect with the defendant but later heard "a lot of swearing and yelling".

When the prosecutor, Sgt Kennedy, asked whether this swearing could have been the alleged victim asking something to the effect of "why the f--k did you do that?", Mr Chandler said he could make out little other than the profanities.

In her closing submissions, Sgt Kennedy said Ms Cooper, a former elite surfer, was "capable in the surf" and was a "candid witness" who was "doing her best to recall the events of the day".

She said Ms Cooper had conceded she had used profane language and was angry at the accused.

"She said that considering she thought that she nearly drowned she was quite calm," she said.

While there was almost two weeks between the incident and Ms Cooper's report to police, Sgt Kennedy said being made aware of footage of part of the incident and ongoing physical ailments had encouraged her to make a statement.

"Ms Cooper is a well-known and respected member of the surfing community," she said.

"She didn't want the attention it might bring."

Ms Cooper had told the court she touched the ground bottom at one point during the struggle, and Sgt Kennedy said while the 152cm leg rope attached to her surfboard would not have reached to the bottom in that area, the fact her surfboard wasn't submerged in footage shown to the court did not mean the alleged victim was fabricating her story.

She argued the combined effect of Ms Cooper's evidence about neck and scalp injuries should convince the court beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Thomson was guilty of the allegations.

Defence barrister Peter O'Connor argued prosecution witness Joy Ford, who also gave evidence on Thursday, "demonstrated a bias against the accused" in her recollection, Mr Chandler "was not shown to really have any axe to grind one way or the other".

He said, particularly of the assault occasioning actual bodily harm charge, there was not sufficient evidence for a conviction.

"There is no material evidence of any actual bodily harm," Mr O'Connor said.

"What's alleged to be a serious assault in a public place by a man, on a woman, doesn't result in any report to police at all until 10 days (or so) after the event."

He argued if the allegations were true, the victim would have "hot-footed to the police station to make a complaint".

Magistrate Karen Stafford is expected to hand down her judgment this afternoon.

She is also yet to consider apprehended violence order applications brought by police against Mr Thomson and by Mr Thomson against Ms Cooper.

ORIGINAL STORY: MARK Andrew Thomson had an inflatable surf mat under his arm as he walked into court in Ballina yesterday.

The Lennox Head man, accused of common assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, brought the mat - which he designed - to the second part of a hearing into allegations he held a former pro surfer's head under the water at Lennox point.

Police have alleged the 58-year-old "dropped in" on former elite surfer Jodie Cooper, breaching surfing etiquette, before holding her underwater and violently grabbing her hair on August 22 last year.

Ms Cooper said in her evidence in April the accused stood on top of her in the surf and left her with an injured neck and scalp.

She had alleged Mr Thomson only released her when she pretended to have drowned. Mr Thomson denies the allegations.

Mr Thomson yesterday told the court he was struck in the back suddenly, that Ms Cooper "lunged" toward him, he became entangled in her leg rope as he was attacked from below.

He said manoeuvres witnesses claimed he undertook, including swerving violently toward her, were physically "impossible" on a surf mat.

But police prosecutor, Sergeant Kennedy, showed to the court in Mr Thomson's cross-examination videos from his surf mat manufacturing business which seem to depict the "impossible" movements.

Defence barrister Peter O'Connor argued this video shouldn't be considered in Magistrate Karen Stafford's judgment as it was not formally tendered as evidence.

But the prosecutor disagreed, saying the notion Mr Thomson's alleged movements were impossible only arose in his evidence.

Magistrate Stafford is expected to hand down her judgment, and consider cross-AVO applications brought by each party, from 2pm today.

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