Jail for 'opportunistic' sex assaults

Web designer admitted ‘chase' games with a young girl. Belinda Feek reports. 

A Hamilton man who repeatedly sexually violated a young girl while playing games of "chase" has been jailed for four years.

Robert Michael Collard, 36, was sentenced in Hamilton District Court yesterday on two representative charges of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and doing an indecent act on a young person between November 2005 and November 2007.

He had entered guilty pleas at a sentence indication hearing before trial.

The court heard Collard first met the victim when she was 11.

He and his victim played a game of chase "on a large number of occasions".

When the victim was caught he would "punish" her by touching her. Collard's counsel Charles Bean said there was some penetration during the assaults but said it was "fleeting" and "opportunistic".

The incidents were somewhat historic and Collard had moved on with his life.

Until entering guilty pleas last month, Collard had worked as a web designer and was someone who would contribute much to the community, Mr Bean said.

He has a new partner and together they have a 2-year-old child.

Collard was having counselling and was also on a treatment course, and accepted he had an issue, the court was told.

In reading extracts from the victim impact statement, Judge David Ruth said the assaults had affected the girl's ability to trust men, especially those of European descent and similar in age and appearance to Collard.

His victim, now 18, felt uneasy when visiting her friends' homes, when a father was present. She also had a "safe zone" around her and if any man came close to her, or within the zone, she would freeze or shut down.

She also had a falling out with her mother because of what happened and was now trying to support herself.

Judge Ruth said it was clear the assaults would affect the victim for the rest of her life.

Collard had written letters to both himself and the victim, but Judge Ruth said he would leave it to the officer in charge of the case to decide whether to give the letter to the victim.

"The girl was vulnerable, of course she was, she was barely 12 years old and you were 30 or 31. This girl should have been able to feel safe.

"These were not one-offs, [they] were repeated over a period of time."

Judge Ruth gave Collard credit for his early guilty plea and otherwise clean history.

Collard's steps toward rehabilitation, which included counselling, were also mitigating factors at sentencing. belinda.feek@waikatotimes.co.nz