Former babysitter admits child abuse, avoids conviction five decades later

The man must give the woman $10,000 to make amends for indecently assaulting her in her bedroom in the 1960s. (File photo)

The man must give the woman $10,000 to make amends for indecently assaulting her in her bedroom in the 1960s. (File photo)

As a teenage babysitter, he crept into the 7-year-old's bedroom and indecently assaulted her in front of her younger sister.

Fifty years later, despite admitting the crime, he's been discharged without conviction.

And no-one outside the courthouse will ever know who he is, as the man, now in his 60s, has been granted final name suppression.

It's all because he crept into the girl's room, as a teenager, before 1974, when the law changed so youth offenders could be convicted for indecently assaulting children.

But his victim, now a middle-aged Blenheim woman, still suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, saying she views every man as a potential rapist.

Judge Tony Zohrab said at the Blenheim District Court on Tuesday the woman was psychologically and physically affected by the man's actions.

"It has coloured her view of men," Judge Zohrab said, referring to her victim impact statement.

"She has lived a life of anxiety and depression. It has had a significant and a life-changing impact for her.

"Reading between the lines, it seems her life would have been considerably different and considerably better if you had not done what you've done."

The woman kept the offending secret until earlier this year, when she finally found the courage to report it to police.

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The man initially faced a representative charge of indecent assault spanning nearly two years, but police later amended it to a single charge relating to one occasion in the 1960s.

He admitted the charge and was to be sentenced on Tuesday.

But offenders had to be charged and sentenced under the law as it existed when the offending happened.

In this case, the man was charged under the Child Welfare Act 1925, later replaced by the Children and Young Persons Act 1974.

He would likely have avoided a conviction if he was charged as a teenager, and would have received permanent name suppression, Judge Zohrab said.

Under today's laws, a teen aged under 17 who indecently assaulted a child could be convicted and sentenced in the Youth Court. 

The maximum penalty was 10 years' imprisonment, and he would have received a first strike under the three strikes legislation, which meant more severe penalties for repeat offenders of serious violent and sexual crimes.

The man's lawyer Nick McKessar argued for a discharge without conviction.

Lifting the man's name suppression at sentencing would not give the public any added protection but would cause the man "further stress and harm", he said.

His family business in Marlborough could lose contracts as a result, and his ability to travel would be affected by a conviction, he said.

The man had no previous convictions.

He met with the woman for restorative justice and apologised for his behaviour, saying he knew what he did was wrong.

He later took out a $10,000 loan against his mortgage so he could make an emotional harm payment to the woman.

McKessar said his client was "truly sorry for what he's done".

Crown prosecutor Jamie Crawford said the woman did not oppose a discharge without conviction.

But she wanted the man's name suppression lifted and did not care if that potentially identified her, Crawford said.

Judge Zohrab said a discharge without conviction seemed "somewhat lenient" given the seriousness of the charge.

"The victim was incredibly vulnerable. She was in bed, and you were in a position of responsibility. This was a gross breach of trust, and of her parents' trust."

But he accepted the man was not an adult at the time and tried to make amends. He also accepted the man would not have been convicted or named if he was charged at the time.

Judge Zohrab decided to discharge the man without conviction on the condition he proved to the courts he had made the emotional harm payment.

"I'm content to conclude it would cause extreme hardship to you. I am concerned about the speculation that would occur if your name was released," Judge Zohrab said.

 - The Marlborough Express

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