Sex offender followed or watched children

A sex offender sent back from Australia has now been jailed for indecencies against children he encountered in public places.

Forty-three-year-old Gustafoham Harris was sentenced to three years’ prison, with a non-parole period of two years’, for doing indecent acts on two children, and assaulting one of them.

Preventive detention for was considered at his sentencing in the High Court at Christchurch sentencing, but Justice Rachel Dunningham said he had not done any deviant sexual rehabilitation programmes in prison, and she thought he should be given the opportunity to do them.

Defence counsel Don Matthews told the court that Harris apologised to his victims, their families, and the community.

He said Harris was willing to engage in rehabilitation treatment, and he accepted guilt at the outset so the victims did not have to give evidence in court.

Crown prosecutor Sophia Bicknell Young said Harris had offended consistently when he was not in custody on similar charges in Australia, and he did this offending despite the protective conditions he was under when he was returned to New Zealand.

She said preventive detention would not mean he stayed in prison indefinitely, but just while he was still a risk.

Justice Dunningham said that in February 2017 a seven-year-old boy was playing by a stream when Harris asked him to hold his bike. Harris got his penis out, and asked the boy to show him his. He ejaculated in front of the boy before the child ran away.

In 2018, an 11-year-old got off a bus and Harris followed him. Harris asked him to hold his backpack while he urinated. He then masturbated in front of the boy who ran off, but Harris dragged him back and said he couldn’t leave, but then let him go.

The victim impact reports from the boys said the seven-year-old was on antidepressants, started wetting the bed, and wouldn’t play outside. The 11-year-old was fearful of strangers, and scared to catch the bus.

Justice Dunningham said in Australia in 2005, Harris grabbed an 11-year-old girl walking home from school and refused to let her go. She screamed, and he pushed her to the ground and thrust his crotch at her. When a person arrived on the scene, he ran off.

Another time there was a five-year-old girl playing in school at lunchtime. A ball the girls were playing with went over a fence and when she went to retrieve it he grabbed her around the waist and pulled down her underwear. He pulled out his penis and pushed it against her and ejaculated in front of her and the girls looking over the fence.

In 2016, Harris was sent to New Zealand and was subject to the Returning Offender’s Management Act. He was not to loiter around where children may congregate.

She said he watched or followed the two boys. They were vulnerable, and he took them to secluded areas.

Two reports done for the sentencing said without intervention Harris was a high risk of re-offending.

Harris had a troubled upbringing after the death of his grandmother who was his main carer, she said, and effectively left school and was on the streets in Australia from the age of 10.

She sentenced Harris to three years’ prison, with the minimum parole period so that he could finish a rehabilitation programme while he was in there. She said he had harmed the victims and the brazenness of the offending was of concern to the community.

She also gave him the first of the three strike warnings for repeat violent offenders.