Warning: this article discusses sexual assault and may be distressing for some readers.
The owner of a painting business repeatedly smacked the bottom of one of his young female employees and told another “one day I will get you” before plying her with vodka and attempting to rape her during a work trip.
Gerald Mark Diver’s victims said his unwanted sexual behaviour towards them became “normal” and it was often passed off by him as “workplace banter”.
But on Monday, the 53-year-old owner of Gerald Diver Painter & Decorator appeared for sentence in Christchurch District Court, after the two women revealed his offending and brought to an end his workplace harassment.
The first former employee, referred to in court as victim A, said she had become “numb and immune” to Diver slapping her bottom. After experiencing the assault almost daily for several years, it became normal behaviour, she said.
He would also make comments to her such as “you’re looking good today”.
The woman felt “unworthy and belittled”. Diver paid her minimum wage and told her she wasn’t worth more, despite her being a qualified painter. She eventually resigned.
“I changed from being confident and social to being submissive and anti-social,” she said in her victim impact statement.
As she began to believe Diver’s treatment of her was standard, other men started disrespecting her, too.
She didn’t speak up about the assaults while employed by him as she feared her voice would not be heard over that of her boss’.
Victim B told the court she was once a “strong, jovial and happy painter” who was handpicked by Diver to work for his company.
But he would later sack her after she confronted him about attempting to rape her.
After losing her job, the woman moved back in with her parents as she could no longer afford to pay rent.
She was left suicidal, “humiliated, unworthy of connection and disgusted”.
The experience lingered in her new relationships, making it difficult for her to trust. Panic attacks and “flashbacks” became a common occurrence and she missed out on celebrating milestones with her loved ones.
“Gerald Diver deserves to feel the full force of the justice system given the offence of the crimes he inflicted on me and his other victims,” she said in her victim impact statement.
Diver had once been overheard by victim A telling victim B “I will sleep with you one day”...”one day I will get you”.
That traumatic day came for victim B in September 2020 when she and Diver travelled north of Christchurch for an overnight work trip. They were staying in a shared motel unit with separate bedrooms.
Following a day’s work, they had dinner together and Diver bought a one-litre bottle of vodka which they drank in the games room of the motel.
Victim B said she got drunk “really fast” and Diver began saying “vile” things to her of a sexual nature and told her to keep drinking.
After they left the games room Diver tried to pull her into the motel unit despite her repeatedly saying “no” and pushing him away.
She recalled him becoming aggressive and continuing to pull her before she blacked out in a bedroom.
The next morning she woke to find she was not wearing any tights or underwear. She could recall being held down, unable to move or see anything and feeling a “massive” weight on her.
At the time, victim B didn’t say anything to Diver about what had happened but a few days later she raised it with him and stated she did not want to work alongside him that week.
Diver told her nothing happened and she was “making things up”, she said. But a few days later when she tried to confront him again, he cancelled her work and sent her home.
The business owner faced a charge of attempted sexual violation by rape and a representative count of indecent assault, having been found guilty in an earlier judge-alone trial.
Diver was initially charged with rape but at trial the court heard his erectile dysfunction meant he could not achieve an erection long enough for penetration. This was used as his defence which contributed to the charge being reduced to attempted rape.
At sentencing, Crown prosecutor Courtney Martyn questioned Diver’s claimed remorse, submitting it was actually self-pitying.
She pushed for a sentence of imprisonment, arguing Diver’s offending was serious and the two months he had already spent in custody was not enough.
“It’s been two months, that’s not enough to denounce and deter offending of this type,” Martyn told the judge.
Defence lawyer Grant Fletcher said the court must take into consideration that rape had not been proven and it was instead attempted rape.
But Judge Michael Crosbie resisted the submission, stating: “it is not a clumsy attempt. I find it likely that Mr Diver raped her”.
Fletcher then accepted the offending was an act of violence but said it was absent of any violent behaviour such as hitting or kicking. This, too, was rejected by the judge who said “don’t get me wrong, this was nasty”.
Putting to the side the offending, Fletcher said Diver - “at his core” - was a good person who had built “love and trust” within the community.
“It’s clear this is a man who for his whole life has contributed to his community and looked after his friends and family.”
Fletcher argued Diver’s business would suffer if he was imprisoned.
After considering the submissions, Judge Crosbie acknowledged the victims and said he was impressed by both the evidence they gave in court and the strength they had shown in their impact statements.
He identified premeditation and the physical force used against a vulnerable woman who was intoxicated as aggravating factors, while the mitigating included Diver’s lack of previous convictions and contribution to the community.
In sentencing him to four years and four months in jail, Judge Crosbie also questioned whether he was truly remorseful.
Diver waved to his supporters, some of who were visibly emotional, as he was taken into custody to begin his sentence.