Luke Andrew Lazarus, 23, was sentenced to a maximum jail term of five years for anally raping an 18-year-old girl in an alley behind his family’s Kings Cross venue.
District Court Judge Sarah Huggett described the assault as an action of a young man who, deluded by the sense of “power and entitlement” stemming from his family’s connection to the Soho Club, went on with this “spontaneous and opportunistic” attack in the early hours of 12 May, 2013.
His family, who initially sent a letter to the court requesting the case to remain unexposed in order to protect Luke Lazarus’ promising future, also aimed to procure a series of character references from prominent public figures.
Waverley mayor Sally Betts, Tsambico K. Athanasas, who is the honorary secretary of the Honorary Consulate-General of Greece in Brisbane, the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league club chairman Nick Pappas, and the parish priest at the Greek Orthodox Christian Church of St George in Rose Bay, Father Gerasimos Koutsouras, vouched for Lazarus’ good character and testified how shocked they were at the news of his conviction.
Father Gerasimos even stated that the charges against Lazarus were “an injustice”, highlighting that he has provided hundreds of character references, adding that “the possibility of imprisonment is completely undeserved for this promising young man”.
They have all been slammed though, by Australia’s first minister for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, Pru Goward, who is also NSW’s state minister for Women.
“Not only does this diminish their standing, it can shatter the confidence of the victim and often discourages them from seeking justice,” the minister said.
“The very last thing any victim needs is to feel as though they are not only fighting back against the perpetrator, but also against other respected members of the community.
“Victims often withdraw charges, and glowing references about their attackers will not help justice to be done,” Ms Goward added.
“This terrible case should serve as a salutary reminder to all of us, but especially those with apparent standing in the community, that they should carefully consider just how willing they are to lend their support to a criminal.”
Mayor Sally Betts, on the other hand, who defended Lazarus as a friend of the family, asking the court not to send the man to jail, drew criticism from Waverley residents, and 20 members of her council demanded her resignation.
“Writing, signing as mayor of Waverley, requesting a non-custodial sentence for a convicted rapist shows incredibly poor judgment,” stressed Waverley Labor councillor Ingrid Strewe.
Cr Betts, who is working with Bondi’s Ways Youth Services to develop some educational programs for young people, suggested Lazarus could do community service instead of going to jail “mentoring young people and preventing others from ruining their lives by doing terrible things”.
Ways spokesman David Faktor, though, has adamantly distanced the organisation from the mayor’s comments.
“I just want to make it very clear that her views and her position is not that of Ways and we just wouldn’t be in a position to take a stance on what the best sentence is or isn’t in relation to this particular person,” Mr Faktor said.
On another, yet not altogether different note, an offensive Soho Club ad that appeared after Luke Lazarus’ rape sentencing has once again stirred the troubled waters of the case.
The photo, which was shared on the nightclub’s Facebook page as well as on Twitter, depicted a young woman who appears to be drunk and almost passed out on the ground with her legs spread while gesturing the peace sign.
It caused a severe backlash on Twitter and was taken down, as it was considered indicative of the ownership’s stance regarding womens’ safety.