Robert Ashleigh Edward McLarnon has been sentenced to 12 years in prison on 32 charges of historical sexual abuse, most against children.

In June, a jury convicted the 78-year-old - once a respected member of his small rural community - of raping, sexually violating or indecently assaulting 10 girls in a number of locations, including his farm, in the Waihī and Katikati areas over a 19-year period in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. His youngest victim was aged 5.

Robert Ashleigh Edward McLarnon, 78. Photo supplied
Robert Ashleigh Edward McLarnon, 78. Photo supplied

Some charges were representative of multiple incidents. On one occasion, he held a knife to a girl's throat while indecently assaulting her.

McLarnon sat hunched and swaying, eyes closed and head propped up on a crutch, in the dock for much of the sentencing hearing in Tauranga District Court this afternoon.


The court heard McLarnon's victims were young and teenaged girls.

One by one, five victims, now mature women who cannot be named for legal reasons, told him about the impact of his offending on their lives in the decades it took to bring him to justice.

The women told him of the pain and trauma he put them through, and the nightmares, fear of being alone, mistrust of other men and other impacts that had stayed with them for decades.

"You scarred me for life so that you could carry out your horrendous acts," said one woman raped repeatedly as a girl.

The last time he assaulted her she was 18 and he grabbed her breast.

"I should have punched you in the face but I went right back to being that scared little girl.

"It has taken two years of [therapy] but now I am free of the movie that would go through my head every night," she said.

"I hope you are going to your bed scared every night as I did every night of my childhood."

Another woman said McLarnon offered her money after the first time he abused her.


"You left me feeling like a cheap, dirty, unlovable and used 11-year-old.

"It left me in no doubt that to you I was an object, not a person."

She said reliving it through the trial had been painful, and McLarnon had "sat in this courtroom playing the poor, sick old man".

"But you were not an old man when you were abusing, you were a young man ... a respected man."

Robert Ashleigh Edward McLarnon, 78. Photo supplied
Robert Ashleigh Edward McLarnon, 78. Photo supplied

A third victim said she had carried the burden of what he did alone for 49 years, never realising there were others like her.

"I had no idea that there were other girls you abused, I always thought I was the only one."

In sentencing, Judge Paul Mabey said McLarnon's offending was "predatory".

The farmer's entitled attitude allowed him to "help yourself to the bodies of young, defenceless girls."

"You were a young married man getting on with your life on the farm when you stole their childhoods.

"The harm has been huge."

McLarnon was not remorseful and claimed a conspiracy against him during the trial, Judge Mabey said.

He made an allowance in McLarnon's sentence for age, ill-health and character in the years after the offending took place.

Detective Mark Leathem, who led the team that investigated the case, issued a statement on Friday afternoon praising the women who came forward.

"I would like to recognise the bravery, determination and strength of the 10 victims who spoke up about this man and saw those complaints through the court process.

"By having the courage to make their voices heard they have helped ensure this man is no longer out in the community with the opportunity to continue offending and causing harm."