Judge reticent about sex victim reading statement

Court House-07A judge has grudgingly allowed one child sex abuse victim to read her statement in court, after the victims had declined a restorative justice meeting where they could have confronted the offender.

The offending against three young girls by Shane Vincent Roy Dennis, now aged 54, took place more than 20 years ago.

Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders today sentenced Dennis to 10 months of home detention, 200 hours of community work, and ordered him to pay $1000 to each victim.

Dennis had admitted 11 charges of indecent assault, and one of inducing a girl to do an indecent act. All related to girls aged under 12 at the time.

Dennis now works as a truck driver in Whangarei, where helps care for his sick wife. He will continue to work and the emotional harm reparation payments to the victims will be made at $75 a week.

Judge Saunders said it was a case where restorative justice would have been beneficial but the offer had been declined by the victims.

He questioned why one of the victims now wanted to read her victim impact statement in court, where the defendant did not have a chance to reply effectively.

“I’m not comfortable about it now,” said the judge. “This doesn’t have a sense of balance about it. There’s no opportunity for formal interaction or apology. I am not sure what she is trying to achieve.”

The Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh replied: “It is part of the process, part of the healing for her. That’s what the law provides.”

Judge Saunders then allowed the 29-year-old woman to read her statement.

She said she had suffered mental and emotional injuries as a result of the offending. She had taken up drinking, taking pills, and smoking dope from the age of 11, and was addicted by 14. The offending had caused her to have difficulties developing proper trusting relationships with men. She had been on medication to prevent anxiety and panic attacks. “He took away my childhood,” she said.

Judge Saunders noted that Dennis only had one conviction – for drink-driving in 1993 – since the end of the sex offending. A prison sentence would only be for the purpose of deterrence and denunciation, because he would not qualify for the Kia Marama sex offenders’ programme, nor the shorter 10-week programme in prison.

Pre-sentence assessments described him as a low or moderate risk of reoffending. His guilty pleas had spared the three women the indignity of having to give evidence at trial.

He said the offending had involved instances of touching, rather than sexual violation which involved heavier penalties. Dennis had been aged from 27 to 33 when it occurred.

Judge Saunder imposed strict conditions as part of the home detention sentence. Dennis will be forbidden to use alcohol or illicit drugs, and will only be allowed contact with anyone under 16 if he has direct supervision from an informed adult approved by the probation officer. He will have to undergo alcohol and drug assessment and treatment if required.

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