Man jailed for serious sexual offending against girl

A Nelson forestry worker has been sentenced to prison for a number of "serious" sexual offences.
MARION VAN DIJK

A Nelson forestry worker has been sentenced to prison for a number of "serious" sexual offences.

A woman sexually abused from the age of 12 told her abuser she gave back "all the shame, all the guilt and all the fault",  a court has heard.

Nelson forestry worker Eric Walker Smith, 53, was sentenced in the Nelson District Court on Thursday to 10 years and six months imprisonment on 12 charges of sexual offending.

The charges carried a maximum of 20 years imprisonment.

Smith was earlier found guilty at trial on seven counts of unlawful sexual connection, one charge of attempted sexual violation, and four counts of indecent assault.

Judge David Ruth said the offending was extensive and involved a wide variety of sexual activity over a five year period.

"You took every possible opportunity to satisfy yourself sexually with this girl."

Smith was 28-years-old and the victim 12-years-old when the offending began. 

Ruth said the offending involved a degree of "depravity and humiliation" for the victim, which uplifted it into a "very serious category".

A victim impact statement read out to the court by a court official detailed the impact the offending had on her life. 

"I struggled to find the courage to put into words the scars you have left me with," the statement said.

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"I wish today I could say I felt the way I did when I was 10, before you impacted my life. I wish I felt ready for and capable of anything."

The social, psychological, academic and financial impact on her life had been "immense".

"It sounds so cliched to say you stole my innocence, but yes, you did.

"For five years you systematically traumatised, hurt, devalued and objectified me for your own delusional gratification."

The victim said she had suffered from mental health issues, self-harmed, had suicidal thoughts and at times needed to be heavily medicated in order to function. 

The abuse had a "devastating impact" on her family. Despite what had occurred, the victim said she did not identify as one. 

"For years I believed that this was somehow my fault and I had made this happen."

"Today I give you back what is yours, all the shame, all the guilt and all the fault. It was never mine to carry and I have carried it far too long."

Ruth said the victim impact statement was "balanced and insightful" and gave an indication as to the serious nature of the offending.

Crown prosecutor Mark O'Donoghue said the jury's guilty verdict showed they rejected Smith's claim that the liaison was consensual. 

He said a starting point of 12 years imprisonment was appropriate and that any credit for previous good character should be tempered by the "prolonged and sustained nature of offending".

Defence lawyer John Sandston said a starting point of nine years imprisonment was appropriate and a credit for Smith's otherwise good character should be considered. 

He said the offending was not premeditated but opportunistic and spontaneous in nature.

Ruth said while there might not have had a "sophisticated plan" it was premeditated as Smith appeared to be obsessed with the victim and during the trial had only admitted to a "limited consensual sexual relationship".

"That is simply fantasy and tells me that you at this stage, do not even now, understand the harm that your offending has done."

Ruth sentenced Smith to 10 years and six months imprisonment, which included a six month discount for his otherwise good character. As a result of the charges Smith would be added to the child sex offender register. 

 - Stuff

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