A female churchgoer who sexually abused the young son of a family she boarded with has narrowly avoided jail.
The woman, whose identity is permanently suppressed, was yesterday sentenced in the Hamilton District Court to 10 months' home detention after admitting two counts of sexual connection with a young person.
She was also issued with a first warning under the "three strikes" sentencing law.
The 35-year-old appeared visibly distressed and dabbed her eyes frequently with a tissue as Judge Noel Cocurullo detailed her offending against a 13-year-old boy earlier this year.
On two separate occasions the woman abused the boy while the pair watched movies alone in an upstairs lounge.
The woman was boarding with the boy's family in Auckland at the time.
On each occasion the pair were engaging in "consensual play fighting" when the woman committed a sex act on the boy.
The woman later told police she knew her actions were wrong "but ... it just happened".
She said the seriousness of her actions only dawned on her when the boy started to avoid her.
She approached her employers and confessed her abuse before making a frank admission to police.
Defence council Garth O'Brien said his client's admission preceded any complaint by the boy or his family.
Victim impact statements from the family were read in court but its details were suppressed by Judge Cocurullo.
The judge said the extensive suppression orders were solely to protect the victim's identity.
O'Brien said the offending had "totally devastated" his client and she fully accepted the harm she had caused her victim.
Since her admission, she had referred herself to counselling and moved herself away from the wider Auckland region with the assistance of fellow churchgoers.
O'Brien said his client's offending was completely inappropriate but did have a basis in her treatment as a child.
Judge Cocurullo said the woman's actions were aggravated by the age difference between her and the boy, the abuse of trust, and the harm her abuse had caused her victim.
The judge said he was taken by the boy's victim impact statement, which demonstrated courage and wisdom beyond his years.
The woman's abuse had effectively robbed the boy of his childhood innocence.
But by "the finest of margins" Judge Cocurullo was able to avoid imposing a jail sentence, noting the steps the woman had taken to rehabilitate herself.
He also declined to impose a $200 offer for emotional harm reparation, saying the woman was of modest means.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Andrea McBeth said the woman was fully co-operative during the police inquiries.
Yesterday's sentencing comes after reports a 36-year-old South Auckland woman gave birth after sex with an 11-year-old boy.
The boy was allegedly friends with the woman's son.
Reports on that case prompted Justice Minister Judith Collins to say she would seek advice on whether a law change was needed in regard to how female sex abusers were treated.
Under the law a woman cannot be accused of rape.
- Waikato Times