The man waiting for green at the traffic lights is unremarkable. Probably in his mid-20s. Dark hair, friendly smile. A nice enough shirt. You’d never pick him as an alleged sex offender.
But that’s what he is. His alleged victim says he kissed her, then groped her. He was a complete stranger to her, and still is … if you don’t count the claim he stuck his hand into her pants.
She is frightened, and no wonder. When he groped her, she says, his uninvited and unwelcome hand made contact with the skin around her vagina. She remains traumatised.
Now he has faced charges in court, but a series of events mean he’s back on the street.
As I stand a few metres from him, both of us having left the courthouse where his case is being heard, I’m not exactly frightened. He is, to my eye, so … normal.
Had I not been early for an appointment nearby in the city, had I not been curious about what was happening in court that day and decided to stick my head in to fill in time, I would never have seen this man. I would never have known the charges against him.
But now I am unnerved.
I don't know if he is guilty. I don't know if he's done it before or might do it again. I don't know where he's going now, or where he's been. I don't even know if the allegations will stand up under scrutiny.
But what if?
That's what I'm thinking. What if he did do it? What if he thinks groping a stranger is okay? What if he knows it's not, but did it anyway, thinking he'd get away with it?
What if he's going to do it again? Today. Or tomorrow. Or some other time before the courts decide his fate.
All my life, I've supported the tenet that's the centrepiece of our entire legal system: 'innocent until proven guilty'.
But seeing the stricken faces of a young woman and her family, I'm not so sure.
It's the first time I've been truly confronted by the implications of that presumption of innocence.