Convicted sex offender fights to keep suppression

A 61-year-old from a small community is fighting to keep his name secret after a jury convicted him of repeated sexual offending on a nine-year-old girl.

He has begun his four-year jail term today – a sentence reduced because of his health after a stroke several years ago – while he continued to deny any offending happened.

The man was sentenced in the Christchurch District Court after the jury’s verdicts at a trial in February. Trial Judge Stephen Harrop appeared in court by video-link from Wellington to impose the sentence.

Defence counsel Anselm Williams said the man had already indicated he would appeal the verdicts, and he asked for name suppression to be continued so that he can also appeal the judge’s refusal to grant a final order. Judge Harrop granted that extension.

The man had sought final suppression because of his family connections in a small community, but Judge Harrop said the application did not meet the “extreme hardship” level required by the law.

He said: “Members of the community will realise that you are the offender, and not your family members. The assessment of the reputation and integrity of the other family members should not be affected by what you did.”

The man had been found guilty of four charges of sexual connection with a child, and one charge of unlawful sexual connection. The trial was told of him touching the girl, putting his fingers inside on one occasion, and moving her hand on his penis until he ejaculated.

The girl’s parents said his offending had had a devastating effect on the family, and told the judge of their feelings of guilt at not managing to keep her safe. The man’s offending had “left a path of destruction”, they said. They feared for the long term effects on their daughter.

The father said: “The anger very nearly consumed me, and I very nearly took justice into my own hands.”

Prosecutor Deirdre Elsmore said the Crown opposed final suppression, because it was the kind of offending that “benefits from secrecy”. She said: “It is clear there is no acceptance of the offending, and no indication of any regret or remorse.”

Mr Williams asked for a meaningful sentence reduction because of the man’s health difficulties, which would make imprisonment more difficult for him. Doctors suggested his health was likely to deteriorate while in custody.

Judge Harrop said he expected the effects of the offending on the victim were likely to be “significant and long lasting”.

He reduced the sentence because although there was no evidence of mental illness, the man’s cognitive functioning and his physical disability, and the nature of his offending, meant that he was “at increased risk of harm from others within the prison system”.