An elderly Buller man who appeared in the Greymouth District Court on a walking frame was yesterday jailed for 12 years on numerous sex offences, including rape.

Joe Ward, 73, of Hector, was tried in November and found guilty of rape, touching a person knowing they had an impairment, digital penetration, and indecent assault.

Lawyer Richard Bodle told Judge David Saunders he could not ask for credit for remorse or a guilty plea, as Ward still denied the offending.

"He maintains his innocence so I can not ask for credit. However, there is his health and age which can be taken into account, as well as Mr Ward wanting to make the trial process as comfortable as possible for everyone," Mr Bodle said.

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Ward was "in a pretty bad way, mentally" at the moment.

"He has stopped taking his medication and is not eating."

He had also received a beating when he returned to Hector following the trial. That assault had been reported to the police.

Mr Bodle accepted that the length of the prison sentence would be affected by previous similar convictions against Ward dating to the 1980s.

The victim impact statement was read out on behalf of the complainant, who was not in court yesterday. She said she felt unsafe, had been undergoing counselling, was shy of going out and scared she would be approached. Her life had changed as a result of the offending.

Judge Saunders said Ward would be given a first strike warning.

"There are various levels of sentencing and yours is at band four on the upper level of misconduct because of the period the offending occurred - over five years - and you breached the trust of a person who was vulnerable."

Judge Saunders said Ward would be given some mercy because of his age and health.

"You are 73 and not in robust health, and that is the only credit you can get," the judge said.

The starting point was 16 years imprisonment, but four years was taken off because of his poor health and age.

Judge Saunders said Ward would have to serve at least one third of the sentence before he would be considered for parole.

- Greymouth Star