Salim Mehajer’s lawyer has queried a journalist’s actions before she was allegedly assaulted (file). Seven’s Laura Banks says Salim Mehajer was “flirtatious” before slamming a car door on her arm.
Former Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer claims a media pack “bullied” him before he allegedly assaulted a female journalist who told a Sydney court he was actually being “flirtatious”.
Seven Network reporter Laura Banks pursued the now 31-year-old Mehajer in April 2017 as he left a Sydney CBD police station following his arrest over separate allegations he assaulted a taxi driver outside Star Casino.
“Is this rock bottom, Salim?” Banks asks him in the footage played to Downing Centre Local Court on Monday.
The video shows Mehajer initially trying to flee in a taxi but the driver then refuses to take him when reporters tell the cabbie of his alleged crimes.
Banks and other reporters move in, attempting to interview him, and when a Porsche pulls up Mehajer invites Banks to “just jump in”.
He then allegedly slammed the door on her arm, an assault charge to which he’s pleaded not guilty.
“Whichever way I turned, there was a camera”, Mehajer told the court. “I was bullied.”
The video shown in court suggests another print journalist was sledging Mehajer as he left the police station.
His lawyer, Philip Boulton SC, put it to Banks that she had crossed the boundary between proper and improper behaviour.
It was obvious Mehajer did not want to answer questions, he said.
“I was doing my job,” Banks replied.
The reporter’s hand bruised “almost immediately” and her back is still sore 10 months after the incident.
Banks denied repeated suggestions she “goaded” and obstructed Mehajer to prolong the situation.
“You just never know what you’ll get with Mr Mehajer,” she said when asked why she persisted.
The footage shows Mehajer smiling and laughing, the journalist noted.
“It was almost suggestive, flirtatious,” she said.
“Asking me to get in the back of his car, I felt like that was suggestive, (it) had innuendo behind it.”
Mehajer admitted he sometimes smiles inappropriately and conceded he shut the door with “immense force”.
Asked whether he intended to hit Banks with the door, he replied: “Absolutely not.”
Mehajer added: “My only thought was to leave.”
Mr Boulton said the invitation for Ms Banks to get in the car was obviously sarcastic and accused her of being the ringleader.
“She was in his face both figuratively and literally,” he said.
“What was happening was not journalism, it was not appropriate and it was in fact unlawful.”
Mr Boulton argued Banks and her colleagues were encouraging Mehajer to breach the peace and he had to take action to avoid doing so.
Magistrate Joanne Keogh referred to the provocation as “obvious”.
She reserved her decision until Friday when Mehajer is expected to appear before the same court via video link.
The 31-year-old is currently behind bars after he was refused bail on unrelated charges.