A peacekeeper who witnessed the aftermath of the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian War and then worked as a prison officer, has now been jailed for 12 years for child sex abuse.
Christchurch District Court Judge Paul Kellar imposed a six-year non-parole term as part of Jeremy Rhys Lyon’s sentence, and praised the courage of both victims who gave evidence against him.
Both girls were aged between 5 and 12 when the abuse occurred.
One of the complainants, now aged in her 20s, read out her victim impact statement at the sentencing, and the mother of the other girl spoke saying that Lyons had taken away her daughter’s life as a normal little girl.
Her daughter had been outgoing and confident, but was now reserved, isolated, and prone to angry outbursts as a result of the incident of sexual abuse.
The other victim told of being diagnosed with traumainduced anxiety and being heavily depressed.
Lyons, 44, of Christchurch, had denied the offending but was found guilty of multiple charges of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and doing an indecent act on a girl aged under 12, at the end of a jury trial in May. Since then he has been in custody, and a psychological report has been prepared.
Lyons said he had no recollection of committing the offences and believed that it didn’t occur. After the trial, he accepted that there was a small possibility that it did occur and had expressed his apologies to the victims for the suffering they had endured.
Judge Kellar said he had no previous convictions, and had been well regarded.
He noted that Lyons had been a peacekeeper who had witnessed the aftermath of the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian War in 1995. He had seen the evacuation of women and children. The massacre involved the killing of about 8000 people, mainly men and boys, by units of the Bosnian Serb Army.
He had then worked as a prison officer, and the psychological report indicated there had been a motorcycle accident in 2014, and there was an indication of scarring on the brain from an earlier injury.
The judge said that the most significant factor in the sentencing was the degree of harm to the victims. He told Lyons: “Make no mistake about it, this offending is about as serious as it gets.”