Girl says name, shame abuser

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014

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A young victim told her abuser he should be named and shamed for what he did to her.

The girl, supported by her caregivers, was invited to read out a victim impact statement at the sentencing of Stratford's James Leslie Couchman in the Hawera District Court yesterday.

The 66-year-old had previously entered guilty pleas to two charges of unlawful sexual connection with a young person, one charge of attempted sexual connection, one charge of indecent assault and one of grooming.

The victim said she wanted people to know what had happened to her in the hope it gave courage to others who may have suffered similar abuse.

"What he has done is not right and nothing to be proud of," she said.

Crown prosecutor Andrew Britton said the offending, which took place over a year, happened primarily at the defendant's home.

Mr Britton said the abuse was premeditated. Gifts like cash and an iPhone were also given as part of a campaign to groom her.

Counsel for the defendant Turitea Bolstad accepted that although prison was inevitable for her client she said he was remorseful for what he had done.

"He accepts that this should not have happened," Mrs Bolstad said.

She said Couchman had brought along an emotional harm payment of $8000 to court for the victim. He also intended to pay for his own counselling and treatment while in prison, as he would not be eligible for any Government-funded programmes as he was deemed at low risk of reoffending.

Judge Roberts said the offending had significantly impacted on the victim and those close to her.

"They agonise daily about how her future life may be affected," he said.

He said the suggestion made by Couchman to his probation officer that the victim had instigated the abuse was "inappropriate" and "untruthful" and had undermined his claim of remorse.

"She did not like what you were doing to her, she would push you away and leave," the judge said.

Judge Roberts said the harm caused by the offending, the breach of trust involved and the duration of the offending were all aggravating factors. The $8000 reparation payment provided some mitigation as did the guilty pleas.

Judge Roberts sentenced Couchman to three years and three months imprisonment for the abuse. A strike warning had been issued to Couchman during an earlier appearance.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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