Patrick Fonce Rivers-Awarau's victim had been a little girl with nowhere to turn.

"She had never been away from home overnight before. You knew she was homesick and crying," Judge Duncan Harvey told the 67-year-old Far North man in the Whangarei District Court before sentencing him to 12 years' imprisonment for raping a girl under the age of 12.

Awarau was also sentenced to concurrent prison terms of one year on two convictions of indecently assaulting the same victim. He will serve a non-parole period of six years. Awarau denied both charges but was convicted after a jury trial in Whangarei.

Judge Harvey said it was difficult to establish exactly when the offending occurred, but the jury "must have accepted" that the victim was aged 8 or 9. She had never stayed away from home at night before, and had been excited.

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The child, who was sleeping on a mattress in the lounge, woke in the early hours of the morning. She began to cry, which on Awarau's admission had annoyed him. Instead of comforting her he told her to shut up. The victim had told the court that Awarau had called her a "slut", put his hand over her mouth, touched her intimately then raped her.

"You told her that if she said anything you would kill her," Judge Harvey said. "You also said that you would hurt her and you would hurt her family."

The child, who had told the court she had felt sticky, dirty and ugly, had cried herself to sleep.

Later that morning Awarau took the child to the Kaitaia market, where she saw an aunt, running to her in tears and begging to be taken home.

Judge Harvey told the defendant that the community had to be protected from him, the pre-sentence report describing him as a high risk of harming others.

"Your pre-sentence report is, in many respects, a depressing document," the judge said.

"You deny offending, of course. You claim that you are the victim.

"You have said that you are not willing to work with the prison managers or the department's psychologists, and you have declined to complete any specialised programmes. You are perfectly entitled to adopt the stance that you have [but] what it does mean, of course, is that there can be no allowance whatsoever for remorse."

Judge Harvey regarded the offending as opportunistic rather than premeditated, although once Awarau had decided on his course of action he had used a form of subterfuge.

Rape, by its very nature, was violent, he added, but Awarau had gone further than that. He had put his hand over the child's mouth, held her down and made threats against her and her parents, to frighten her into submission and into keeping silent.

"Indeed, she was silent for a considerable period of time," he said. "That increases the inherent violence, and I do not regard it as being minor. It is impossible to over-state the harm that has been done. During the trial we heard graphic evidence from [the child's] mother and grandmother, who told us about the very marked change in this little girl. They told us how this behaviour impacted on her and other members of the family.

"Hopefully, in time, [the victim] will recover, although it is impossible to say just how much psychological damage will remain with her for the rest of her life."