TV and radio presenter Yumi Stynes claims she was scared for her life after she broke up with her husband of nine years, who in turn argues she was violent with him.
Ms Stynes and her ex-husband Martin Bendeler appeared in Sydney Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday to face off in a legal battle over allegations of harassment.
Mr Bendeler is challenging the imposition of an apprehended violence order which restricts his interactions with his ex-wife.
Under the standard terms of the restraining order, he must not assault, threaten, stalk, harass or intimidate his ex-wife or damage her property.
Mr Bendeler, who is a practising solicitor, has not been charged with any wrongdoing and the court heard he has no criminal record.
The provisional order was taken out by police in December last year on behalf of Ms Stynes, who claimed she feared for her safety because of harassing messages from her ex.
Police prosecutor Michael Cleaver said “the volume of messages received by the complainant and the nature of the messages” caused Ms Stynes to feel harassed and scared.
The court heard the author told police that Mr Bendeler had never hurt her but she believed his behaviour had become “increasingly unpredictable”.
“I am fearful if we’re not in a public place that he might be more likely to be violent,” she said in a police statement.
After making a second statement, the TV and radio presenter urged police to act on the “discomfort and fear” caused by her “harassing ex-husband”.
“I am literally in fear for my life,” she told them in her request for an AVO.
The court heard Mr Bendeler sent 242 messages to his ex-wife in the period leading up to her complaint, but police only saw the select messages provided by Ms Stynes.
His lawyer Paul McGirr told the court there were “no threats at all in any of the messages” and described Mr Bendeler as a “nonviolent man”.
He argued Ms Stynes had used her complaint “as a weapon rather than a shield” to bolster her position in a separate legal dispute.
“It’s not just a coincidence that she wants an AVO, there’s family court proceedings around the corner,” Mr McGirr told the court.
“It has a bad smell about it”.
Mr Bendeler testified he had never hurt Ms Stynes or even raised his voice at her during their years-long marriage. However, he told the court she had been violent with him.
“I’m scared of Yumi sending the police to me based on how she feels when I don’t think I’m always responsible for how she feels,” he said.
The solicitor said his client felt “humiliated and scared” when police knocked on his door in December and told him his ex-wife felt his messages were harassing and inappropriate.
Despite a suggestion from police that he only contact Ms Stynes through lawyers, the court heard Mr Bendeler sent her a message mere hours after the police visit.
In it, he mentioned a recent sexual encounter with another woman, which Mr Cleaver said was “designed to arouse some form of outrage of disgust” and constituted harassment.
However, Mr McGirr said the discussion was not inappropriate for a former couple who were open about sex.
He maintained Ms Stynes had not asked her ex-husband asking him to stop messaging her, but Mr Cleaver argued Mr Bendeler had instead ignored her plea and continued to message.
“The evidence supports the assertion that (Mr Bendeler) has engaged or is likely to engage … in conduct that would amount to a domestic violence offence,” the police prosecutor said.
Mr McGirr strongly disagreed, pointing to the lack of threats in the messages and the timing of the complaint.
Magistrate Keisha Hopgood will deliver her decision next month on whether to impose a final AVO.
“Given the significance of the decision, it’s not something I’m going to rush,” she said.
Mr Bendeler will remain constrained by the interim order until he returns to court in October.