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Jailed 18 months for indecency 'betrayal'

A man who continues to deny indecently assaulting a young girl – the daughter of his best friends — was jailed for 18 months when he appeared for sentence in Gisborne District Court.

His lawyer sought home detention as an alternative but Judge Warren Cathcart refused to grant it, saying it was inappropriate because of the denials.

The grave and repetitive nature of the offending, in breach of the trust a young girl rightly expected from her family’s friend, warranted a prison term.

The man was entitled to maintain his innocence but that meant there was no need for a more rehabilitative sentence. The man did not accept there were issues, other than his use of alcohol, which needed to be addressed, the judge said.

The custodial sentence comes with mandatory registration of the man as a child sex offender.

He also received a three-strikes warning.

The offender, in his mid-30s, cannot be named without risk of revealing the complainant’s identity, which is protected by law.

A jury found him guilty earlier this year of all five charges he faced of indecently assaulting the eight-year-old complainant on a night when the two families were socialising.

The adults were drinking. The accused was noticeably intoxicated.

The couples’ four children were on mattresses in a lounge room, but the accused said his son was being a mischief and suggested moving the visiting two children into a spare room.

As he carried the complainant down a hallway, he put his hand inside her underwear and squeezed her buttocks.

He returned to socialising with the adults but left them four times to return unnoticed to the spare room, where he similarly indecently touched the girl’s bottom.

In one incident he also rubbed her midriff and attempted to pull her pants down. In another, he touched her vagina through her clothing.

The girl pretended to be asleep and feigned waking up, which caused him to leave.

She told her parents, who confronted the man the next day.

Clearly jurors believed the girl, the judge said.

Also compelling was evidence of the man’s reaction to the girl’s parents. He bowed and shook his head and said something to the effect, “I’m so sorry sis’, I’m so sorry bro’.”

Implicit in that comment, which the jury must have accepted, was an acknowledgement of misconduct, the judge said. Having made that concession to the parents, the man then denied his offending to police.

Counsel John Mathieson urged the judge to consider home detention. If that non-custodial option was imposed, the court could use its discretion to exclude the man from the child sex offender register, Mr Mathieson said.

This offending was impulsive and opportunistic — caused only by excessive alcohol consumption.

There was no evidence of any premeditation other than that inherent in the repeated nature of the incidents that night.

The man had one prior conviction and no history of this type of offending.

He had abstained from alcohol since the incident and taken steps to address his abuse of it.

He and his family had relocated.

His wife needed his support to care for their children.

A pre-sentence report assessed the man as being a low risk of re-offending and — only because of the nature of the charges — a medium risk of harm to others, Mr Mathieson said.

At the start of the hearing, the complainant’s mother read a statement to the court expressing her anger and feelings of betrayal by someone her family considered a close friend. They now believed that friendship and the man’s upstanding demeanour was a front to enable him to groom their daughter.

The girl had been filled with anxiety and fear, the woman said. She and her husband also suffered emotionally and had taken time of work. They were devoted to restoring their daughter’s faith in them as her protectors.

Judge Cathcart told the man that having heard that statement, he must surely now realise the impact of his offending on the other family. This was the type of offending that ripped families and friends apart, and there was now clearly a massive divide between these two groups, the judge said.