A large number of victims and families crowded an Invercargill District Court room this morning for the sentencing of a 20-year-old "predator" who faced 21 sex-related charges involving several young girls.
Adrian Joshua Coulter appeared for sentence before Judge Kevin Phillips after he was found guilty of four charges and pleaded guilty to 17 in a jury trial in July.
The charges included 17 of sexual connection with girls aged between 14 and 15, two charges of sexual violation and two of doing an indecent act on a young person, one aged 14 and the other 15.
The Crown alleged the offending occurred between May 17, 2009, and November 9, 2010, when Coulter was aged between 17 and 18.
He was today sentenced to six years' and seven months' jail.
During the trial, Crown prosecutor Mary-Jane Thomas said it was concerning the pattern that developed where the age of the girls he pursued stayed static and by the end of the offending, although his age had increased, the girls' ages had not.
It was also concerning he did not seem to understand what he had done was unlawful, Ms Thomas said.
The young girls he targeted were, in that stage of their life, damaged. They were not confident young woman and had issues with home life, school life and their bodies and Coulter took advantage of that, she said.
Defence lawyer Colin Eason said the word targeted was not an accurate description and Coulter had not tracked people down as the young girls had gone to his house.
Coulter had accepted his offending had a harmful effect on the victims, Mr Eason said.
Judge Phillips said Coulter had selected young girls and charmed them for his own gratification.
"You were a predator in relation to these young girls."
The victim-impact statements from the young girls and in some cases, their family or parents, were harrowing, Judge Phillips said.
One of the victims says she now feels worthless, is depressed, and the offending had impacted on her being able to carry on with her life, he said.
One of the victim's mothers says in her victim impact statement she had lost the relationship she once had with her daughter and worries about her every day, he says.
All of the victims were vulnerable and now had feelings of hate, stress, guilt and the offending had affected their social lives, he said.
"I have no doubt at all you were actively pursuing your victims ... I have no doubt you knew the ages of the girls involved."
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