A Christchurch man who sexually assaulted two women in a dark city cemetery has avoided jail and will serve a sentence of home detention instead.

Richard Manoa Edwards, 28, was sentenced this afternoon in the Christchurch District Court for the incident - during which the women thought they would be killed.

He earlier pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting the women on August 12.

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Edwards also admitted robbing one of the women of $70 cash.

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Judge Stephen O'Driscoll today outlined the offending.

He said the women were working in the red light district of Manchester St when Edwards and another man approached them in a vehicle.

It was about 3.40am.

Edwards negotiated a price for sexual services and both women got in his car.

The women were taken to a house in the central city and the services were provided.

They then asked the men to drive them back to Manchester St.

Edwards was in the front passenger seat, and instead of returning the women to where they had been picked up as requested, he pulled a yellow bandanna over the lower half of his face and started demanding his money.

He believed they had stolen cash from him.

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The men took the women to a cemetery on Barbadoes St.

"Your voice and demeanour changed dramatically and you became incredibly hostile," said Judge Stephen O'Driscoll in court today.

He said one victim was "hysterical and crying" and the other was "too terrified to say anything".

"Both victims were terrified and thought they were going to die or be seriously assaulted.
At the cemetery Edwards searched the women, rubbing his hands over both of their bodies and taking cash from one of them.

Edwards and his associate then left in the car and the women called police.

One of the victims was in court to see her attacker handed his punishment.

She provided the court with a Victim Impact Statement, but did not want to read it aloud.

"It's clear from the statement that the victim if not both victims were both absolutely terrified," said Judge O'Driscoll.

"One of the victims, if not both, thought they were going to die.

"One of the victims turned to alcohol to assist her getting over this ordeal."

The Crown sought a sentence of two years in prison for the offending.

But defence lawyer Serina Bailey implored the court to hand down a sentence of home detention.

She said her client had been in custody for 10 weeks following his arrest and after that, he was released on electronically monitored bail and had adhered to his conditions.

Due to this, she argued, Edwards was "a good candidate" for home detention.

"He has tried to self-improve which he has done to some extent," Bailey said.

"It would be a shame for him to go backwards."

She said his mother and partner were "fully supportive".

While his offending had been "a shock" for them, they stood by him - and were in court with him today.

"He has taken this very seriously… he is very willing to pay reparation for emotional harm," Bailey told the court.

Edwards brought the money - including the $70 he took from one victim - in cash to court.

"It would be a shame for him to go backwards."

Judge O'Driscoll said a pre-sentence report stated Edwards claimed he did not intend to "seek sexual gratification" from the attack.

Edwards told the report writer that he recognised the impact the attack had on the victims and was "ashamed" of what had occurred.

Judge O'Driscoll set a starting point of 30 months in prison for Edwards.

However, he gave him a six-month discount for remorse, his offer of reparation and willingness to complete rehabilitation programmes.

He took further time off the starting point to account for the time Edwards had spent in custody, his time on electronically monitored bail and the guilty plea.

The endpoint came to 11 months' jail - which meant Judge O'Driscoll could consider converting it to home detention.

The court heard that Edwards said the attack was not premeditated, rather he thought one of the women had stolen his money.

"I am prepared to convert the sentence of imprisonment to home detention," he said.

He sentenced Edwards to a total of five months' home detention and ordered him to complete 150 hours of community work and pay each victim $1000.

Edwards will also be subject to six months of post-release conditions.