Content warning: This article includes discussion of assault.
Christian O’Brien, who played guitar in now-defunct Melbourne indie band Alpine, has been charged with assault of a teenage girl in 2019.
A charge of sexual assault of a child under 16 was laid against O’Brien last year, and was first reported in December after details emerged in a Melbourne Magistrates Court hearing in late November.
O’Brien, 38, has been granted a diversion by a magistrate after prosecutors abandoned the sexual assault charge shortly before a hearing was due to begin. The Herald Sun reports that the alleged victim had become “overwhelmed with the thought of having to give evidence” in the case.
According to the Sun, O’Brien was accused of grabbing a 15-year-old’s bottom in a crowded Melbourne street in August 2019. Previous court hearings heard that O’Brien had intended to fight the charge, with his then-lawyer Jonathon Brancato calling the incident an “accident” caused by “the motion of [O’Brien’s] arms swinging”.
O’Brien, a former music lecturer and previously an ambassador for anti-violence against children charity Polished Man, accepted a charge of aggravated assault of a female and was granted a four-month diversion. The Magistrates Court of Victoria describes a diversion as “[a] way for low-level offenders to avoid a criminal record by undertaking conditions that benefit the victim, the community and themselves”.
Conditions can include an apology to the victim, compensation to the victim, counselling, treatment and/or a donation to a charitable organisation. As part of his conditions, O’Brien has been ordered to make a donation of $1,000 to Centres Against Sexual Assault. Should he follow his diversion plan until a follow-up hearing in February 2022, the charges against him will be dismissed and he will not have a criminal record.
Magistrate Duncan Reynolds called the offence an “aberration” in O’Brien’s otherwise “excellent lifestyle” and noted that he had written a letter of apology to his victim. O’Brien’s lawyer, Carly Marcs, said that since he had been charged, he had been terminated from his lecturing position at Box Hill Institute and had his Working with Children Check revoked.
O’Brien’s former bandmates in Alpine commented on the charge when details emerged late last year, saying they were “deeply concerned and saddened” by the allegations.
“Any matter of sexual assault is an extremely serious one, however, as the matter is still before the courts we are advised that we are unable to provide further comment at this time,” they told NME at the time.
“Our thoughts are with those involved and hope all parties have the privacy and support required to deal with this devastating matter.”
At the time, they also revealed that Alpine had disbanded in 2019 and would not be releasing music or playing shows in the future, saying it was “very disappointing” to share the news in that manner.
O’Brien was a co-founding member of the band, who formed in 2009. They released two studio albums – 2012’s ‘A Is for Alpine’ and 2015’s ‘Yuck’. They also released a standalone single, ‘Dumb’, in 2019.