A former swimming and surf-life saving coach has been sentenced to jail for three counts of sexual conduct with one of his 15-year-old female swimmers.
The man was granted further interim name suppression in the New Plymouth District Court after his lawyer, Andrew Laurenson, appealed Judge Fred McElrea's decision to lift an interim order.
The judge also suppressed the nature of the sexual conduct.
The man was yesterday sentenced to 28 months jail for the offending which the judge said had taken a huge toll on his victims - both the girl herself and her parents.
The defendant had earlier pleaded guilty to three charges of sexual conduct with a young person under 16 in January.
The maximum penalty is 10 years jail.
Prior to sentencing in the New Plymouth District Court yesterday, Judge McElrea lifted the interim suppression ruling that the defendant had no right to have permanent name suppression.
But defence counsel Andrew Laurenson said this would be appealed and the interim suppression was continued until the appeal is decided.
The Daily News has since confirmed with the judge that the defendant can be described as a former swimming and surf lifesaving coach.
Earlier, the girl's father choked up several times as he read his victim impact statement to the court.
He spoke of how happy he had been to have his daughter coached by the defendant. He trusted him and thought of him as a friend.
"I can't get over your betrayal."
The defendant had taken advantage of his "beautiful naive 15-year-old daughter, taking away her innocence".
She had since struggled with major effects, including anxiety attacks and the loss of friends.
However, as time passed she was getting stronger as was the family.
"Confronting you in February was the most difficult thing I have ever done."
To this day the defendant had never offered an apology, the father said.
About 15 people sat in the public gallery to hear his words.
He believed the actions his daughter had taken would keep others safe and he encouraged others to make a stand against similar actions.
"Enough is enough," the father said.
Judge McElrea said the defendant developed an inappropriate relationship with his victim, sending her flirtatious texts.
At the swim meet in January he invited the young girl to his room, gave her cans of beer and the sexual activity took place.
In her victim impact statement the girl said she had trusted him with her life "but you took advantage of me".
"You turned me into a hateful person. I never want to be touched again."
Crown solicitor Cherie Clarke said the grooming of the victim, which the defendant accepted had occurred, was a very serious aggravating factor.
While he offered $10,000 to the victim and a restorative justice meeting, the offers did not come until April this year and were an attempt to stop the laying of charges, Ms Clarke said.
The defendant had ample opportunity to make amends earlier and chose not to.
He had minimised his offending, saying he was flattered by the victim's attention.
Mr Laurenson strongly denied his client minimised his offending. He was extremely remorseful.
He never intended anything of a sexual nature to occur but it did.
He accepted 100 per cent responsibility for what happened and did not want to cast any blame on the victim.
The $10,000 was not an attempt at chequebook justice but to show his remorse.
While the victim had declined the money it would remain available for her for a year if she changed her mind.
Mr Laurenson asked for credit for his client's achievements in the community. He acknowledged his career was now destroyed.
"His name is now mud - he accepts that," Mr Laurenson said.
Last night, the officer in charge of the case, Senior Constable Greg Gray, said the victim showed huge strength of character to go through with the prosecution.
The family was pleased with the outcome and the jail sentence.
"They are now happy it's over and they don't have to be thinking about it all the time."
In sentencing, Judge McElrea said the trust the girl had in her coach had been "betrayed in the most cynical way possible" by the much older man.
There was a high level of culpability for what was serious offending.
The judge said he wanted it made public that the girl was blameless.
The conduct of the victim was not a factor in the offending, the judge said.
The defendant, who was given credit for a lack of convictions and his guilty pleas, was assessed by his counsellor as having a low risk of reoffending.
His previous achievements could not be taken away from him and the future was now up to him, the judge said.
The need to deter and denounce such offending was high and the defendant would therefore not be given home detention.
The defendant was also given a first-strike warning.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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