A man accused of sexually abusing two girls had his bail conditions eased before his trial so that he could drink - because he was an alcoholic.
Christopher Hill, 34, was sentenced in Napier District Court last week to seven years' jail after being found guilty by a jury in March of attempted sexual violation by rape, unlawful sexual connection and six charges of indecent assault of a child under 12. Hill has the names of his two victims, sisters now aged 12 and 13, tattooed from his wrists to his elbows.
It can now be revealed that Hill was granted bail when he appeared in Napier District Court last May after being charged.
His original bail included conditions stipulating that he must live with his father, abide by a curfew, not consume drugs or alcohol, and not contact the girls. He breached those conditions twice by drinking alcohol. But after the second breach, police removed the no-alcohol condition.
The girls' mother, who cannot be named because it would identify her daughters, was furious when she found out, and confronted a police officer.
"I was told it was because he was an alcoholic, and that putting the condition on would just mean they had to keep arresting him," she said.
Hill appeared in court again last August to be remanded for a post-committal conference. This time he was remanded in custody until his trial in March.
Police prosecutions manager Dean Goodall said at the time that no-alcohol conditions were regularly contested in court as being unrealistic for an alcoholic, and in Hill's case it may have been imposed initially without complete knowledge of his health.
Under the Bail Act 2000, a defendant can be remanded in custody for one of three reasons: a risk that they may not attend court, a risk they may interfere with witnesses or evidence, or a risk they may offend.
There was no suggestion Hill's drinking on bail was connected to further offending, and breaching the condition would not be just cause for remanding him in custody, Goodall said.
Hill was remanded in custody last August after breaching his residential and curfew bail conditions by being found in Dannevirke.
Goodall said those breaches had removed police ability to maintain oversight, and "therefore there was an increased risk of further offending and failing to appear in court".
Professor Doug Sellman, of the National Addiction Centre, said there were varying degrees of alcoholism, and some people regarded as alcoholic would find it easier to obey a no-alcohol condition than others. "Some may abide by the condition, but in some cases expecting it would be very difficult without some therapeutic support."
'FEELS A LOT BETTER NOW IT'S OVER'
One of the sisters abused by Hill said it was very hard making a victim impact statement in court, but she was pleased she made it.
"I wanted him to know how much it affected me and how much my life's been stuffed up since," the older sister said yesterday.
It was the first time since late 2012 that she had said anything to Hill, who had been a close family friend but had been abusing the girl from the age of four.
She "just too scared" to tell anyone what was happening. "I did know it was wrong but I was afraid of what would happen to me if I told anyone.
"Knowing what I do now I would tell anyone who had been in my position to speak up and not be afraid to tell someone. It feels a lot better now that it's over and that he's in jail," she said.
- The Dominion Post
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