A Gold Coast woman working as a deckhand aboard a luxury charter boat has pleaded guilty to negligence, after admitting to having drunken sex with her captain as the unmanned yacht ran aground.
Gold Coast deckhand Cheya Handley pleads guilty to negligence over drunken tryst
The court heard Cheya Handley, 26, admitted to drinking alcohol and engaging in intercourse on the bow of the 80-foot Crystal Blue with skipper Jeremy JJ Piggott, 46, as the pair were returning the charter vessel from Brisbane to the Gold Coast on March 3 last year.
The boat also collided with a moored yacht and hit a navigation beacon on the 83-kilometre journey, causing an estimated $140,000 in damage.
The court was told an inebriated Mr Piggott had attempted to steer the boat via remote control while the pair were intimate, and had deliberately lowered the boat’s mast to ensure a mounted CCTV camera did not record the pair’s activities at the front of the boat.
Earlier this year, the captain pleaded guilty to two counts of recklessly contravening his duty and was fined $4,000 and given a two-year good behaviour bond.
During Tuesday’s hearing at Southport Magistrates Court, Ms Handley pleaded guilty to one count of risking the safety of a person or vessel.
Defence barrister David Funch said in the 18 months since the incident, Ms Handley had been promoted at Crystal Blue and given more responsibilities.
He said the prospect of a recorded conviction was “horrifying” since Ms Handley, who grew up on a houseboat, was hoping to join Border Force and work on patrol boats.
He urged the magistrate to consider the extreme power imbalance between the skipper and the deck hand saying “when the master of a vessel tells you to jump, you ask how high”.
He added that in the maritime industry, the skipper is regarded as “God”.
Mr Funch also said none of the damage sustained to the boat occurred during the 10 minutes Ms Handley was admitting to negligence.
Prosecutor Jeff Hunter QC said while the defendant’s role on the boat was significantly subordinate to the master it should have been “abundantly clear” to her that the captain’s actions were “a disgraceful abrogation of his responsibilities”.
He also said safety obligations applied to crew members as well the skipper, and that such a large boat travelling without a proper lookout posed a “significant risk” to other users of the waterway.
In sentencing, Magistrate Andrew Sinclair said he took into account the power imbalance between the pair and said Ms Handley’s behaviour on the night had been out of character.
Ms Handley was placed on a $1,000 good behaviour bond for six months and no conviction was recorded.