About a dozen protesters gathered outside Auckland District Court today to express their outrage at recent decision where a judge allowed a well known comedian to walk free from sex charges against his 4-year-old daughter.
The court was told that the man went to bed with his partner after returning home drunk from a Christmas work party in December 2009. After he fell asleep, his daughter got into bed with them.
According to the police summary of facts the man laid his daughter on her back, pulled down her pyjama pants and nappy and kissed her.
The man's partner woke up and asked him what he was doing. He replied: "I thought it was you.''
He later told police that he remembered nothing of the incident.
Judge Philippa Cunningham discharged the man without conviction after he pleaded guilty to a charge of performing an indecent act.
Protest spokeswoman Leonie Morris, of the Coalition for the Safety of Women and Children, said she was outraged by the decision, which sent the wrong message about sexual assault on children.
"One of the horrifying aspects of this case was the so-called 'reason' for the assault was that he was under the influence of alcohol and we are sick to the back teeth of this being used as an excuse. It is not an excuse.
"Unfortunately, we still do live in a society that talks about prioritising children but doesn't do that in practice. This Government spends millions and millions of dollars on rugby but peanuts on protecting children from child sexual assault.''
The court should have directed the man to receive sexual offender treatment to ensure that he doesn't offend again, she said.
"This man has not had treatment. What's to stop him from sexually assaulting another child in the future?''
The man's lawyer, Marie Dyhrberg, told the court her client should be allowed to keep his record clean. She said a conviction would make it hard for him to work again as a comedian.
Judge Cunningham said the consequences of a conviction would outweigh the gravity of the offence.
She also granted the man permanent name suppression to protect the identity of his daughter.
"He's a talented New Zealander. He makes people laugh. Laughter is an incredible medicine and we all need lots of it,'' the judge said.