Airbnb superhost jailed for raping Japanese tourist he hired to clean his Halls Gap property
An Airbnb superhost who raped a young Japanese woman he hired to clean his rural property has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
James Lithgow twice raped and sexually assaulted the 19-year-old, who spoke little English, in a caravan next to his home in Halls Gap, Victoria in 2018.
County Court Judge Fran Dalziel said the 46-year-old should have known that a pleasant, friendly young woman was not an invitation to sexual activity.
Lithgow was convicted by a jury of two counts each of rape and sexual assault, but acquitted of other charges, including false imprisonment and attempted rape.
County Court Judge Fran Dalziel told the court a woman had the right to say no for any reason, including that she simply didn’t want to (pictured, County Court of Victoria)
He had claimed he believed the woman was consenting, telling police: “I’m not stupid, I can tell when there’s a good feeling.”
Lithgow also described his kissing and touching of the young woman as normal drunken behavior, which sparked disagreement from the judge during a pre-sentence hearing.
‘Just not. It’s not normal behavior to start kissing and having sex with someone just because you’re drunk,” she said.
“If it’s normal, it shouldn’t be.”
She noted that Lithgow only stopped his sexual advances on the woman after she told her she had a boyfriend.
Judge Dalziel wondered why he stopped at that point.
“Does a boyfriend somehow make you less available for sex? » she asked, adding that a woman has the right to say no for any reason, including because she simply doesn’t want to.
Lithgow had met the woman who was responding to an advert she had posted looking for work.
She and her boyfriend arrived in Australia in early September 2018 for a working holiday, and Lithgow offered her $25 an hour plus food and accommodation to clean his 11-person Airbnb property.
Lithgow responded to a 19-year-old Japanese tourist’s advert saying she was looking for work and offered her $25 an hour to clean her rural 11-person Airbnb in Halls Gap (photo, stock)
She took a train from Melbourne to Ararat and he picked her up for the 30-40 minute journey to her property, stopping at a supermarket to buy wine and dinner.
On the property, they drank wine and the young woman said she felt drunk.
Lithgow pushed her onto a chair outside the caravan and began groping and kissing her, before taking her into the caravan where he raped her twice.
He then fell asleep.
After dozing for a few hours, the woman texted her boyfriend, who drove to the property to meet her the next morning.
He took her to a nearby caravan park and the police were called.
In sentencing Lithgow, Judge Dalziel noted that his business had suffered as a result of his actions and subsequent reporting of his trial.
She said it was not suggested that he had intentionally decided to assault her, but that he had shown a lack of understanding of the stark power difference between them.
“She was definitely friendly and pleasant, but that doesn’t mean she was ready to have sex with you,” she said.
Earlier in the trial, the prosecutor bizarrely expressed frustration that reporters covering the trial weren’t covering people dying from climate change, AAP court reporter Karen Sweeney tweeted.
Lithgow must serve at least four years before being eligible for parole.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
National Sexual Abuse and Redressal Service 1800 211 028