A man who endured more than a decade of childhood sexual abuse at Marylands special school has been granted home detention after admitting a drunken sexual violation.
The 55-year-old suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has daily flashbacks of the he suffered abuse at the St John of God school.
He was a witness in the 2009 Christchurch trial of one of the Catholic brothers who was found guilty of years of offending against multiple victims. That accused was jailed.
Christchurch District Court Judge Tom Gilbert decided that home detention could be allowed in the circumstances, after Crown prosecutor Emma Henderson conceded that a sentence of imprisonment could be seen as “unduly harsh”.
He imposed the maximum 12-month term of home detention and the maximum 400-hours of community work which he hopes will allow the man to continue the mostly unpaid and voluntary gardening work he does now.
The man does not have name suppression on the current offending – the judge ruled there were no grounds for it. But he does have automatic suppression as a complainant in the St John of God sex trial.
The man had had a “wretched existence” as a child at the Marylands school, near Halswell, Judge Gilbert said. “It has left you with PTSD and I have no doubt it has very much shaped the person you are today.”
He said: “It was a place where untold misery was inflicted on people at the hands of several highly repellent individuals.”
The man had been sexually abused for over a decade. “The abuse replays in your head over and again, like a movie, up to 10 times a day.”
The man sat shaking in the dock throughout the sentencing, while rubbing his face. He has contemplated and attempted suicide, and has said he would commit suicide if jailed.
He cannot handle closed or confined spaces. Interviews with his counsellor, probation officer and lawyer have had to be conducted in rooms with the doors open, or in open spaces at the Court House.
He does have some previous convictions. Two decades ago he committed an indecent assault that was punished with a supervision sentence, and he was later prosecuted for “stalking” behaviour with a woman. There was no predatory sexual aspect to that later behaviour, said defence counsel Nick Rout.
The man had written a letter of apology to the sexual violation victim, and would have liked to apologise in person if a restorative justice meeting had been possible.
He said the man was “appalled with himself” and could not explain his offending. “The amount he had to drink on that night means he can’t really remember it.”
The man was held in custody on remand for a time. It meant he did not eat, because his was the victim of stand-over tactics by other prisoners who took his food away. He was eventually placed in an at-risk unit.
Judge Gilbert said the sexual violation occurred at a party in Christchurch in January 2016, where most of the 20 guests drank heavily. A woman passed out on a couch and woke at 3am to find the man had removed her pants and underwear and was sexually violating her.
She yelled at him and he ran off and jumped into bed with another person, presumably in an attempt to hide.
The Gilbert said the man had been on bail for 15 months without any offending or breaches. Home detention was seen as a punitive and deterrent sentence and not an easy option. Twenty-four-hour a day monitoring would help address any public safety concerns.
Gardening on community work would allow him to contribute something positive with his outdoor skills.
Judge Gilbert told him: “You are a simple person who lives alone. Your best friend is your dog. You spend your time gardening for others often for little or no money. This gives you some relief from the flashbacks that you experience.”