Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Child sex offender gets home detention, loses suppression

Name suppression for William Ronald Richards was lifted yesterday. Photo / Jason Dorday
Name suppression for William Ronald Richards was lifted yesterday. Photo / Jason Dorday

A Tuakau man who indecently assaulted an 8-year-old girl multiple times can finally be named after his bid for permanent name suppression failed.

William Ronald Richards, 75, was found guilty of a representative charge of indecently assaulting the girl at a jury trial in October last year.

He was granted name suppression during the trial, but that was lifted yesterday.

Richards was a friend of the girl's family and they considered him a "quasi grandfather" to the girl.

At his trial the court heard that he sexually abused the child at least twice, the second time ordering the girl not to tell anyone or he would get in trouble.

She ignored him, and told her family and the police were called.

The Herald can now reveal that earlier this year Richards went on trial a second time for alleged sexual offending against a second young girl.

In that case the jury found him not guilty and acquitted him.

In the Manukau District Court yesterday Judge Anna Johns sentenced Richards to six months' home detention and ordered him not to have any contact with a person under 16 except "under the supervision of an adult who knows about this offending" and with permission from his probation officer.

She also ordered Richards to pay the victim $3000 in emotional harm reparation.

Richards, who pleaded not guilty to the charge and still maintains his innocence, offered the reparation.

The girl's family did not ask for reparation, nor did the court suggest it prior to sentencing.

The Crown sought a starting point of 12 months' imprisonment for the pensioner, but Judge Johns said home detention was more appropriate.

She took into account the fact that Richards was a first time offender and over the years had given significant service to the community including his involvement with a local meals-on-wheels service, helping to transport cancer patients to treatment and running the Tuakau senior citizens group.

While he had a somewhat glowing record, the offending against the girl was "very serious", Judge Johns said.

There are three aggravating factors... (The victim) was a young girl who knew you and your wife as quasi-grandparents so your offending against her was a gross breach of trust.
Judge Anna Johns

The breach of trust extended to the girl's family.

Judge Johns said the other aggravating factors related to the offending.

"There were two occasions. And on the last occasion you attempted to persuade (the victim) not to tell anyone what had happened."

Richards home detention officially starts on August 11 to enable the monitoring devices to be installed at his property.

He had earlier asked the court for a delay until next week so he could attend a "family gathering" at the weekend.

Richards, supported in court by his wife of 56 years and other family and friends, sought permanent name suppression.

Suppression was granted initially for two reasons - Richards' medical condition, and the fact that there were two trials pending.

The court heard yesterday that Richards had undergone a number of surgeries and was under regular review by a cardiologist.

Having his name published would cause severe stress and anxiety that could exacerbate his condition.

He also feared "post trial retribution" if people found out about his offending.

Crown prosecutor Evan McCaughan argued that Richards' reasons did not meet the threshold for permanent suppression.

The victim's family were also strongly opposed to him keeping his crime a secret from their small community.

Judge Johns said Richards' reasons were "not sufficient" and rejected his application.

Victim's family: "now the truth can come out"

The family of Richards victim said they were relieved the court process was finally over, and that they did not have to keep what had happened a secret any longer.

Richards' sentencing was originally scheduled for 30 June, but at 5pm the night before it was delayed.

They said that waiting had been "agonising" and they were pleased they could move on, knowing Richards had been punished for what he did.

The hardest thing for the family, was not being able to tell people what Richards' had done because of the suppression order.

"We've lost friends because we couldn't tell them what was going on. They knew something was but we couldn't talk about it," said the victim's aunt.

Her grandmother said: "We are happy with the home detention. That means we have six months of not having to worry about seeing him, running into him in the street," said one relative.

"He got punished, he got convicted. He's been walking around Tuakau like nothing's happened. That's been hard for us. Now we can smile again."

They pushed the Crown to oppose permanent suppression because they thought the community deserved to know that Richards was a sex offender.

The young victim was not in court, but knew her family were there representing her.

"She said today 'Nana I can talk about this now'," her grandmother said.

"We can finally tell people what's been going on."

- NZ Herald

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