Kids charity dismayed at comedian verdict

01:57, Sep 05 2011

Child welfare charity Barnardos has joined the chorus of authorities alarmed that a well-known comedian who committed sexual offences against his daughter has been discharged without conviction, saying "alcohol and the ability to laugh" are no excuses.

Barnardos chief executive Murray Edridge said his organisation was "very concerned" that Friday's decision would set a precedent.

"The verdict suggests that a person's ability to get work in the future, and their ability to make people laugh, is more important than a child's safety."

Judge Philippa Cunningham discharged the man without conviction citing, in part, his "talent" and the fact that he had suffered professionally already.

She said he was a "talented New Zealander" who "makes people laugh -  and laughter's an incredible medicine that we all need a lot of".

The man, who has permanent name suppression, had pleaded guilty to performing an indecent act on his four-year-old daughter.

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He came home drunk from a work function and performed a sex act on his daughter in the middle of the night after she climbed into bed with him and his partner.

He told his partner that he thought the girl was her.

Edridge said the man had "come home drunk, committed an unacceptable sexual act on his daughter and has admitted doing so".

"Unbelievably, he faces no legal consequences for his actions. A discharge without conviction means there will be no record of his crime.

"It is very concerning to think that being talented and funny somehow excuses the inexcusable. I absolutely disagree with the judge's assertion that  'the effects of a conviction outweighed the gravity of the offending'."

Edridge said New Zealand had a significant child abuse problem that would only be addressed "when we start to respect and value our children, and are prepared to stand up for them when they don't have a voice".

"If we are going to change this, we need police, the social services sector, the judiciary and all New Zealanders to take abuses against children seriously. In this case it appears we have failed to do so."

The Sensible Sentencing Trust and anti-abuse organisations Auckland Sexual Abuse Help and ECPAT Child Alert have all expressed dismay over the judge's ruling.

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