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Man sentenced, gets temporary name suppression

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 13:52 01/12/2012

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A Palmerston North man sentenced on a rare sexual exploitation charge has been granted temporary name suppression to allow lawyers time to argue the issue.

The man was sentenced yesterday after admitting a charge of sexual exploitation of a person with a significant impairment, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years' prison.

However, as Judge Barbara Morris told Palmerston North District Court, the man's own difficulties meant he would not face such a penalty. Both he and the victim suffer from some impairments, but the victim's are worse.

Defence lawyer Fergus Steedman made a bid for the man's name to be suppressed.

Judge Morris said that matter would be decided next week and the man's name would remain secret until then.

His victim was "naive" and "trusting", and the man was unable to pick up social cues.

The judge said he thought of the woman as his equal and could not see the difference between the pair.

He had befriended the woman and in March last year the pair met in The Square.

He asked her back to his flat, where the pair were intimate.

Originally, the man was charged with rape and was to have gone to trial, but he pleaded guilty when the charge was changed.

A victim impact statement said what happened had a "huge impact" on the woman, and Judge Morris said a lengthy prison term would normally be imposed.

"[But] with your difficulties I consider prison is not appropriate," she said.

Mr Steedman said texts sent from his client's phone to the victim's, after they had sex and the next day, were mundane: "Thanks, me too," and "Thanks, enjoy your day".

But when her mother found out, the woman became upset.

Mr Steedman said the victim impact statement went too far.

"My concern is that the undoubted stress that [the woman] is under, which must have been huge, has all been attributed to what happened in [the man's] flat for about an hour in the afternoon."

The man now understood his actions were wrong and felt a sense of shame, Mr Steedman said. "Everywhere I go, I'll be a criminal - people will know," he told Mr Steedman.

The man was sentenced to six months' community detention, 100 hours' community work and 18 months' supervision.

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- Manawatu Standard

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