Coffs Harbour martial arts teacher Michael Landas has been acquitted on all charges.
Coffs Harbour martial arts teacher Michael Landas has been acquitted on all charges.

‘It’s ruined me’: Teacher innocent of sexual touching claims

"I was wrongly accused from the very start. It has made me completely lose faith in humanity."

Coffs Harbour martial arts teacher, Michael Landas, recalls the moment detectives turned up to his dojo to arrest him over disturbing allegations he sexually touched an 11-year-old student.

According to court documents the young girl had claimed to police that Mr Landas had visited the family home several nights earlier where he had committed a number of acts upon her - including "kissing" her and "licking" her ear.

But as recently determined by Magistrate James Gibson at Coffs Harbour Local Court, the allegations were false.

At the conclusion of the four day hearing, Mr Landas was acquitted of all charges including five counts of intentionally sexually touch a child.

"The last nine months of my life have been hell. Every time I went to court I didn't know if I was going to come out. I had to prepare myself" he said.

"I was a mentor to the hundreds of teenagers and children who had come to my school and who looked up to me. That all got destroyed.

"I've lost everything from my job, business, to finances.

"But justice has been served - I've won in that respect. I still remain the respectful person I've always been."

 

Mr Landas was acquitted of all charges following a four-day hearing at Coffs Harbour Local Court.
Mr Landas was acquitted of all charges following a four-day hearing at Coffs Harbour Local Court.

 

Mr Landas claimed it all began when he visited the home for drinks on the night of March 15, the night the girl alleged to police the touching had taken place.

Mr Landas claimed the man and his wife began fighting in front of their 11-year-old daughter.

He further claimed he informed the parents that as the girl's teacher, he was required to file a report with Family and Community Services.

"I did what any teacher is supposed to do. It's a mandatory obligation that we have and I exercised that, and it just punched me square in the face."

It wasn't until almost three days later that he was arrested on claims he had sexually touched the girl that night, in what Mr Landas believes was an attempt to ruin his credibility ahead of the Family and Community Services investigation.

According to court documents the girl told police that over several hours, Mr Landas had committed a number of acts on her in separate rooms from the parents, including that he asked her to sit on his lap and supposedly licked her ear, touched her thigh, straddled her, and kissed her on the lips while she was pretending to sleep on the couch.

Mr Landas pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

During the hearing earlier this month, the young girl, father and mother were cross-examined for several hours.

The defence also presented records they had obtained from Family and Community Services detailing the family's history with the Government department.

Mr Landas' lawyer Carlo Bianchino said his client was acquitted after the credibility of the complainants was put into question.

The allegations, which failed to match up, were dismissed by Magistrate Gibson as being "inherently implausible."

"The believability of the complainants and a number of witnesses was critical in Mr Landas' acquittal," Mr Bianchino said.

"It went to a full hearing, all evidence was tested, and the honour was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Landas was guilty of the charges."

The Magistrate said he believed the family had concocted the story to taint Mr Landas' reputation, and that it was not possible Mr Landas had been in separate rooms of the house where the alleged sexual touching had taken place, as he had been in the parents' eye shot the whole night.

Now acquitted, Mr Landas is teaching again and is hoping to rebuild his life.

"I have surveillance cameras throughout my school for this exact reason.

"I just want to say to people that they need to be really vigilant and have some sort of security, like CCTV cameras, in case they are accused of something like this.

"I was guilty before I was innocent. I was slandered all around town. This has absolutely devastated me - but I've just got to try and rebuild."


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