Michael Williams pictured leaving Mullumbimby Hospital after the ‘Sea Rogue’ sank off Byron Bay in 2008.
Michael Williams pictured leaving Mullumbimby Hospital after the ‘Sea Rogue’ sank off Byron Bay in 2008.

Sea Rogue survivor fails in bid to appeal rape conviction

Bravery award winner and convicted sex offender Michael Patrick Williams is back behind bars after his bid to appeal his conviction was dismissed.

The Sea Rogue survivor was last year found guilty by a judge-alone trial on two counts of sexual intercourse without consent over the assault which took place at a Yamba house party in 2018.

Williams, who was a deckhand on the trawler which sank off Byron Bay in 2008, had made headlines when he survived a 12-hour swim to shore. He was awarded a bravery medal from Governor-General Quentin Bryce as well as a Royal Humane Society of NSW Bronze Medal.

The tragic event had claimed the life of skipper Charlie Picton, and had left Williams with PTSD. Williams later wrote a book and featured in a documentary about the sinking.

Michael Williams published his book Sea Rogue 10 years after the trawler accident.
Michael Williams published his book Sea Rogue 10 years after the trawler accident.

Flanked by his family and partner, Williams’ three-year prison sentence was handed down by Judge Jonathan Priestley at Coffs Harbour District Court last year.

The court had heard Williams assaulted the woman as she was heavily intoxicated and lying on a couch at the house party, which was attended by a small group of friends.

According to court documents the victim had said that she was trying to say “no” but her voice was muffled by a blanket, and had no further recollection of what took place. Her next recollection was being woken up in the morning by a friend and realising her jeans were undone around her hips.

In cross-examination, the victim had stated she was quite sure it was Williams who had committed the assault.

During the trial it was revealed that a DNA profile taken from the victim’s underwear could not conclusively be linked to Williams, and it was determined that the ‘major contributor’ was not Williams.

Michael Williams in the documentary Sea Rogue.
Michael Williams in the documentary Sea Rogue.

Williams had attempted to appeal his convictions on a number of grounds, particularly focusing on the DNA evidence findings.

It was argued that the trial miscarried and Judge Priestley had erred by failing to properly take into account that the evidence had excluded Williams as the contributor.

It was therefore argued that the prosecution had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Williams who had assaulted the victim, and not another male at the party.

However, in their judgment the panel of three judges in the Court of Criminal Appeal found that the evidence as a whole showed Williams was the only male in the vicinity who had the opportunity to commit the offence.

It was determined that Judge Priestley had “acted reasonably” to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Williams was the offender, and that the suggestion that any other male was the offender was “fanciful” in light of all the evidence which included testimonies from the fellow party goers.

“...having read the transcript of the evidence and read and considered all of the exhibits, I do not entertain a doubt about the appellant’s guilt, much less one that the trial judge might not have been able to resolve, having regard to his advantage of seeing and hearing the witnesses,” the judgment stated.

The appeal was dismissed and Williams’ sentence was recommenced. His sentence will now expire in October 2023, and he will be eligible for parole in June 2022.

Originally published as Sea Rogue survivor fails in bid to appeal rape conviction



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