Nude photo blackmailer raped 13-year-old

Teenaged girls sent Shaun Hart naked and semi-undressed photos of themselves, which he used as leverage against them.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Teenaged girls sent Shaun Hart naked and semi-undressed photos of themselves, which he used as leverage against them.

Shaun Hart coerced three teenaged girls into sending him naked and semi-clad photos of themselves on Snapchat and Instagram, which he then used to blackmail them into granting sexual favours.

And in the case of his youngest victim - just 13 - that included "taking her virginity".

Hart, 18, was sentenced to nine years and two months in jail when he appeared in the High Court in Hamilton on Friday on two charges of rape and five of blackmail.

He must serve half of that sentence before he can be considered for release, such was the gravity of what Justice Paul Davison described as "sustained, callous and calculated" crimes.

All of the offending took place in 2015 and 2016 in a town in Waikato.

Hart made contact online via Facebook with his first victim - an 18 year old who lives outside of the Waikato - in June 2015 when he was 17.

He convinced her to send him semi-naked photos of herself.

She agreed on the proviso that he delete them soon afterward. However, once he got them, Hart said he would delete them if she sent him more images of herself performing various sexual acts. 

Reluctantly, she did so, sending Hart 20 photos and 20 videos. 

Alarmed at the way things were going, the girl contacted the police, who identified Hart through his Facebook page, arrested him and charged him with blackmail.

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However, being caught proved anything but a wake-up call for Hart. About a year later - while he was on bail on the blackmail charge - he befriended another girl through another online site and, during the course of their discussions, she revealed to him she was 13.

Rather than being deterred by this, Hart pushed ahead, eagerly discussing personal matters with the girl. Then things again took a sinister twist.

He demanded the girl send him a nude photo of herself lest he post the details of what she had told him online for all to see.    

She sent him a Snapchat photo with her breasts exposed. Hart took a screenshot of that image. Then he demanded the girl meet him at his house because he wanted a kiss.

She absented herself from her classes at school and went to his house, where they kissed, before she returned to school.

Later that same day, Hart threatened to show the photograph of the girl to her father, whom he knew.

As Justice Davison described it, Hart proposed "to sort the matter out by taking her virginity".

Not long after, the girl went to his house where the two had sex.

Hart kept up his demands and claimed the girl had agreed to have sex twice with him. She had not.

Two days later, she went again to Hart's house, where they had sex again, in spite of the girl's "clearly voiced" objections. As Hart was raping her, the girl began crying. He hugged her and consoled her, but then carried on raping her.

Afterward, she left the house and returned to school.

Not long after, Hart began his campaign of blackmailing his third victim, who was 17 at the time. Their "initially innocuous" exchanges rapidly escalated to the sending of more compromising nude photographs, and then threats of blackmail if they did not meet for sex.

However, this girl contacted the police - and rather than meeting her at their arranged rendezvous on July 25, Hart was picked up by detectives.

It was not long after that the parents of the 13-year-old girl, who had sensed something was not right with their daughter, got the full story of what had happened and also contacted the police, who quickly identified Hart as the rapist.

He pleaded guilty to his charges at a court appearance on December 13.

A pre-sentence report found Hart appeared to not understand the full impact of his offending or the effects on his victims.

"You considered the victims were at least partly responsible for what occurred," Justice Davison noted.

Likewise, a letter Hart sent to the court "indicates you have limited insight of the seriousness of your actions".

He castigated Hart for his "callous" and "devious" well-planned deeds, which had deeply humiliated and "indelibly damaged" his youngest victim in particular.

Hart's counsel Charles Bean asked the court to take note that he had at no time been violent towards his victims and deserved some credit for this.

"I do not accept that submission. The fact you did not use actual violence does not reduce your culpability in any way."

From a starting point of two years and three months in jail, the judge made deductions for Hart's youth and early guilty plea, ending with a sentence of nine years and two months - at least half of which must be served.

Speaking after sentencing, the father of Hart's youngest victim said he was satisfied justice had been done, and he hoped all young people would take a lesson from what happened.

Netsafe outreach director Sean Lyons said the situation was a horrifying yet increasingly familiar one.

The exchanging of nude photographs had become common courtship practice among adults, however such behaviour was "bleeding down" to people of younger and younger ages - and parents and caregivers needed to make their children aware that things could get out of control.

"It will still be a very small percentage of people who find themselves the prey of individuals like this."

If anyone found themselves in similar situations, they needed to talk to the police, their parents, or someone from Netsafe who would provide non-judgemental, confidential advice.

"It can be a hard discussion, revealing you have taken photos like that - but it is preferable doing that than being involved in something that someone is trying to make you do."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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