A yoga teacher sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl while the teenager’s mother was in the class and on a mat about one metre away, a court has heard.
Chandra Bhoga, 47, is now in custody after his lawyer conceded jail was warranted for repeatedly groping the girl under her T-shirt and underwear across 30 minutes on July 31, 2018.
The mother and daughter did the early-morning class at Bhoga’s home in Tarneit after beginning sessions with him over the previous weeks, the County Court heard on Thursday.
When the girl told Bhoga she was having trouble breathing because of a cold, he instructed the mother to continue her movements and had the girl put her legs on his and moved his face close to hers, prosecutor Tania Bolton said.
Bhoga then repeatedly touched the girl under her clothing and at one point tried to move her wrist towards his penis, Ms Bolton said. When the girl resisted, Bhoga asked: “You aren’t comfortable?” The girl replied no.
Towards the end of the class, after the assaults, Bhoga told her: “You are feeling a bit tense. We will continue this another time.”
The girl became upset later that day when she told friends and a counsellor at school about the assaults.
Now 18, she has experienced years of stress, anxiety and sleeping problems since the assaults, her mother said in a statement. Her education has also suffered and she has lost her confidence.
“No one deserves this kind of pain and people who do this definitely should be taught a lesson,” the mother said.
While the teenager wanted to report Bhoga to assist other victims of sexual assault, she had been exhausted by the length of time it took for her case to be prosecuted. Bhoga was not charged for a year after the assaults, the court heard, because the lead police officer left the force during the investigation.
“I hope a good outcome might bring closure of some sort to my daughter’s pain,” the mother said.
Bhoga pleaded guilty to two charges of sexually assaulting a child under 16. He had run yoga classes for three years but has not held one since and now works as an IT consultant.
His lawyer, Tony Trood, conceded jail was a sentencing option but called for Judge Frank Gucciardo to impose a combination of prison time plus a community correction order.
Mr Trood said Bhoga’s sentence would have a long-term effect on his ability to get work and his jail time would have a major bearing on Bhoga’s son, who requires specialist medical help and has displays behavioural problems when his father is away.
Ms Bolton said the serious and protracted offending warranted a lengthy prison stint and community denunciation. The abuse of trust and the mother’s presence in the room aggravated the crimes, she said.
Mr Trood asked that Bhoga’s bail be extended until his August 3 sentence so he could get his second Pfizer shot before then. But Judge Gucciardo refused and remanded Bhoga and said the vaccination would have to be done in prison.
If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732)
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