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Father jailed for 12 years

The mental health of two girls seriously declined as their father’s sexual offending against them continued for many years, Gisborne District Court was told.

One of the girls tried to end her life at school. The other died by suicide about two years later before a trial was scheduled for their father, who initially denied the girls’ allegations.

The 38-year-old man, whose name is permanently suppressed to protect the girls’ identities, ultimately admitted the offending and pleaded guilty to seven representative charges — three of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, including of a girl under 12, two of indecent assault of a child aged under 12, and two of indecent assault of a young person.

He was jailed for 12 years by Judge Warren Cathcart.

His name will be added to a national register of child sex offenders.

The charges were all representational of regular, often daily, offending against each of the girls. The sexual violations spanned about three years of the overall offending, which spanned six.

Each of the charges qualified for a three strikes warning, which was issued.

The offending occurred when the children were living with their parents, who both drank heavily. They were left in their father’s care while their mother worked. The couple also had a son, who died the same year this offending was disclosed.

When the first victim tried to end her life at school, the couple decided she should stay in their bedroom. The father re-offended against the girl that same night — forcing her to perform oral sex on him — while his partner was at work.

The offending against the second girl was when the man thought she was asleep. The girl said it happened “even when he was not drunk”.

Crown prosecutor Jo Rielly and counsel Adam Simperingham both spoke of the case as “tragic and sad”.

Mrs Rielly said the scale of the offending and the extreme breach of trust by a biological father against his daughters was of the highest order seen by the court.

The two girls were vulnerable not only because of their young ages but because of their declining mental health as the years of offending went on.

There was no direct link between the second girl’s suicide and the offending, but it was certainly a background factor, Mrs Rielly said.

In submissions as to sentence discounts, Mrs Rielly said while it was clear the man had a problem with alcohol, it was no excuse. And while he told the writers of pre-sentence and cultural reports that he was affected by drugs and alcohol at the time of the offending, he also denied the level of his problem.

Other than for his guilty pleas, the man had shown little remorse except to say he hoped his kids could forgive him, Mrs Rielly said.

Counsel Adam Simperingham said it was difficult for his client to come to terms with and discuss his actions, but his pleas to the charges was indicative of his remorse and acceptance of taking responsibility.

When first confronted with the allegations he sought forgiveness. That showed at least a degree of insight, acknowledgment of wrongdoing, and a desire to avoid future offending.

While alcohol might have featured in the offending, his client was not pointing to it as an excuse but as a factor that made it difficult to discuss what happened.

The court heard that in initially denying the offending, the man claimed it could only have occurred during blackouts he suffered when drinking.

Judge Cathcart said the lead charge of sexual connection with a girl under 12 carries a maximum penalty of 20 years. The Crown sought a starting point of 14 years, Mr Simperingham said it should be 12.

After an adjustment for totality, the judge set the starting point at 15 years. He cited the sheer scale of the offending, that it involved two victims and repeated incidents over a lengthy time.

He refused any discount other than for the man’s guilty pleas, which would be 20 percent of a possible 25 percent. While not early, it had at least saved a vulnerable victim from giving evidence.

A cultural report submitted by the defence informed the court of the man’s difficult, itinerant, upbringing; his father’s abandonment of him; and violent physical and sexual abuse against him.

While those factors were accepted by the court, there would be no discount for them, Judge Cathcart said.

He pointed to recent comments by High Court Justice Mathew Downs who said factors relating to family or cultural background were likely only to have a modest effect on sentences for serious violence or serious sexual offending.

Many people with disadvantaged backgrounds did not commit criminal offences.

There was an element of repugnancy to victims of sexual offending if cultural factors were used to mitigate a serious form of offence against them.