In a significant development, Sri Lankan cricketer Gunathilaka has been exonerated of sexual assault charges in Australia. The 32-year-old batsman had faced legal troubles since his arrest just hours after Sri Lanka’s final Twenty20 World Cup match against England in Australia last November.
Initially accused of four counts of sexual intercourse without consent, following an encounter arranged through a dating app at a bar near the Sydney Opera House, Gunathilaka’s legal ordeal extended for nearly a year. However, in a recent turn of events, three of these charges were dropped back in May.
The sole remaining charge, which alleged that he had removed a condom during intercourse without the woman’s consent, was dismissed by Judge Sarah Huggett, as detailed in court documents from the New South Wales District Court in Sydney.
Relieved and elated outside the court, Gunathilaka, whose identity had been kept confidential, shared his gratitude, saying, “The last 11 months have been really hard for me. Everyone believed me, so that means a lot to me. I am happy that my life is normal again, so I can’t wait to go back and play cricket.”
The prosecution had argued that the cricketer had violated the woman’s consent agreement by altering the terms of protected intercourse. However, the judge’s decision was influenced by the woman’s inability to provide a clear recollection of the events, as reported by the Australian public broadcaster ABC.
Gunathilaka, a prominent figure in Sri Lankan cricket, made his international debut in 2015 and has represented his country in eight Tests, 47 ODIs, and 46 T20s. Following the legal charges, Sri Lanka Cricket had suspended him, and his clearance marks a significant milestone in his cricketing career.