Jennifer Peterson: Convicted Melbourne sexual assault offender avoids jail

A Melbourne woman who sexually assaulted three women in a hot tub at a wild Christmas party has avoided a stint in jail.

Jennifer Peterson, 31, overstepped the boundaries in circumstances of “gross intoxication” when she touched her victims’ genitals without consent in December 2016.

She was convicted on Tuesday and handed a two-year community corrections order, including 200 hours of unpaid work and a requirement she attend treatment and rehabilitation for alcohol and mental health issues.

Jennifer Peterson leaves the Melbourne County Court in Melbourne, Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (AAP)

But Peterson was permitted to walk from the County Court of Victoria after pleading guilty last week to three charges of sexual assault against three women aged 34, 27 and 22.

Judge Gavan Meredith said Peterson had straddled her first two victims in the spa and grabbed all three of them by the vagina while in the spa.

One victim said Peterson’s hands were “all over” her in the spa, while another woman woke the following day with a hangover to find bite marks all over her chest, stomach and neck.

Peterson started binge-drinking during her 20s to deal with social anxiety and joined a local sports league when she felt lonely and rejected after a romantic relationship ended.

Her lawyer previously argued Peterson should not have a conviction recorded so the former children’s swimming instructor could continue working in the job and be eligible for future IVF treatment.

But Judge Meredith said a conviction was necessary to “mark the seriousness of your offending”.

He indicated that if she had not pleaded guilty, he would have imposed a minimum one-year and three-month jail term.

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