An 81-year-old Catholic brother and schoolteacher from Napier has been sentenced to a second term of home detention for sexually abusing children when he was teaching in Masterton more than 40 years ago.
Kevin Peter John Healy was sentenced in Napier District Court today on five charges of indecency in the 1970s, involving a girl aged 8 or 9, and her brother and another boy who were at the time aged 12 and 13.
At least four victims have now been identified, with offending having first come to light in 2016, leading to Healy's first convictions and home detention sentence the following year. for offences with a boy in 1981-82.
He was later charged with the offences which were before the court today, at one stage seeking a stay of prosecution because of his age, initially pleading not guilty and claiming no memory of the offending.
But he admitting the charges in February this year after a sentencing indication hearing at which Judge Geoff Rea offered a "starting point" of two and a half years' jail.
Judge Rea took into account the offender's age and infirmity in deciding against a prison sentence and imposing a term of none months' home detention with six months of post-sentence conditions, all including banning contact with people under the age of 16 without appropriate written consent.
A male victim in court to witness today's sentencing, describing the sentence as "a bit light", told Hawke's Bay Today afterward that while he had told his wife over the years about what had happened, he did not disclose anything to the police until after media coverage of Healy's arrest.
He said he could not let what appeared to be a single female victim be "on her own" in the prosecution and his revelations were motivated by the need for her to know she was not alone.
A summary said Healy took students on school outings and camps, including the former YMCA camp near Mahia, and was a regular visitor to families' homes.
On one visit he entered the girl's bedroom one night, wrapped her in his arms and demanded a kiss.
Despite her fear she refused, responding only with a kiss on his cheek as he pinned her to her bed with his arm across her body, before he demanded a "proper" kiss and forcefully kissed her on the mouth for several seconds, after which he left the room.
At other times while saying goodnight to her brother, Healy would put his hand down the boy's pyjama pants.
The second boy was molested on a camp, where he had to share a bed with Healy because of a shortage of bunks. He pretended to be asleep while he was being sexually assaulted.
The boys, now each aged about 60, had struggled with ever discussing what had happened, and as grown men told investigators how it had impacted their lives, including struggles with relationships as they grew older.
Healy was wearing a face mask and allowed to sit in the mainly empty public gallery as defence counsel Scott Jefferson, appearing via audio-visual link, sought the home detention sentence, saying his client was a "suitable candidate" and that if the offending had been considered at the time of the previous sentencing the outcome would have been similar.
Crown prosecutor Fiona Cleary highlighted the number of victims, the abuse of trust, the other offending that occurred about the same time, and Healy's lack of remorse as aggravating features in addition to the actual offending.
Reports showed Healy claimed to have no memory of the offences, but Judge Rea was doubtful and said the offences were persistent and caused considerable damage to the people into their adult lives, as revealed in what he said were among the most comprehensive victim impact statements he had ever read.
The statements were not read to the court.
The families were staunch members of the church and an aggravating factor was that Healy had taken advantage of the very high trust the community had in him, Judge Rea said.
Police are known to have interviewed dozens of others in Masterton during an extended inquiry around the class groups of the victims, from an era of the school teaching in the area which produced at least two other Catholic brothers or priests who were to be later jailed for offences against children.
One was Father Michael Beaumont, currently in jail, and the other was Father Patrick Thwaites, whose offences were committed elsewhere after he moved to the South Island to begin training for the priesthood, having worked in Wairarapa at a non-Catholic school.