Sex offender's apology 'a joke', says angry mum

Lawrence Shaw was sentenced to  over two years in prison when he appeared in the Nelson District Court yesterday.
Lawrence Shaw was sentenced to over two years in prison when he appeared in the Nelson District Court yesterday.

A former Nelson teacher will serve time for indecently touching five school-aged girls.

Lawrence Shaw was sentenced yesterday in the Nelson District Court to two years and three months in prison, after Judge Tony Zohrab deemed anything short of a custodial sentence insufficient.

Shaw, 44, collapsed during his last court appearance, in November, when he was convicted after a jury found him guilty of indecently assaulting five girls aged 6 to 12.

In October 2011, Shaw deliberately swiped the bottom of a 12-year-old girl who was queuing with a friend at the Pak 'n Save supermarket in Richmond Mall.

Later that day he followed two sisters, aged 6 and 10, into a games arcade at the mall. Shaw distracted the girls' older brother while he assaulted them, the court heard.

In January 2012, he indecently touched two girls while bathing in the family spa at the ASB Aquatic Centre in Richmond.

Judge Zohrab described Shaw's crimes as "opportunistic sexual offending against children in a public place".

Though red-eyed, Shaw remained composed in the dock yesterday. Through defence lawyer Tony Bamford, he asked if he could apologise to his victims' parents, who were in the public gallery.

Judge Zohrab allowed Shaw to address them, but noted that they might find an apology "hard to swallow", as Shaw had contested their evidence and maintained his claim of innocence throughout his trial.

"To the people I've affected, I am truly sorry," Shaw managed through tears, his voice breaking.

"Words can't be enough, obviously. I mean it with all my heart that I'll get some help one way or another. I'm determined to turn my life around."

Mr Bamford said there had been a "huge shift" in Shaw's position since he had received counselling.

"You've seen his evidence at trial, but now he's like a different person," Mr Bamford said.

"He has a significantly clearer understanding of the harm caused by indecent assaults of this kind.

"He accepts responsibility. He understands, and is quite shocked by, what he has done and the harm he has caused."

Outside court, the mother of the girls assaulted in the games arcade said Shaw's apology seemed disingenuous.

"I am really kind-hearted, and I had to keep putting it in my mind actually that he's probably only doing this because he's been told to," she said.

"If he was really sorry, he would not have put us through the court system, and pleaded guilty from the beginning. If he wanted help, he would have asked for help from the beginning. It's kind of a joke, really."

She said it was fortunate that her husband had been out of town for work during the trial process.

"He's a bit more outspoken than me, and I don't think he would have even let the guy apologise."

She said it wasn't until sentencing that she truly appreciated the risk Shaw had posed to her children.

"I broke down. It kind of really hit home hearing it, the way the judge was putting it. Because I never got to see the kids' statements and things, it wasn't fresh like that for me."

She said her youngest daughter had health problems and had been in and out of hospital all her young life.

"This girl's been through so much, how dare he do this to her? I just kind of broke down at that point.

"Two years, three months - I think it's a great sentence, but then, he won't do that. That's the disappointing thing," she said, implying that Shaw was likely to be eligible for release after half that time.

"My view is, when you do something like that, you need to do the full time."

Crown prosecutor Mark O'Donoghue said Shaw had made a "determined effort" to avoid punishment.

Putting the girls and their families through the stress of a trial indicated that he was more concerned for his own liberty than he was sorry for the effect of his crimes on the victims, Mr O'Donoghue said.

"True remorse is an acknowledgment of guilt and early guilty plea."

Judge Zohrab said he could not discount the sentence for remorse.

He said that because Shaw had lied from the witness box during the trial and challenged the evidence of honest witnesses, he could not be sure that Shaw wasn't lying from the dock when he said he wanted to turn his life around.

"You certainly need help. This is a bizarre case; it almost seemed like you wanted to get caught. It almost seemed like a cry for help," Judge Zohrab said.

The Nelson Mail