The father of a rapist jailed for more than 14 years for sexually assaulting his wife’s three siblings couldn’t control his disgust at hearing how long his son will spend behind bars.
“Bulls***”, the man yelled while frowning and shaking his head in anger after Justice Pheroze Jagose sentenced his son on 20 rape, sexual assault and indecent assault convictions a jury had earlier found him guilty of after a re-trial in the High Court at Hamilton.
The offending happened between 2008 and 2017, with the victims aged as young as 12 years old, and continuing for one sporadically over that decade.
Justice Jagose found the man, aged in his 30s, used his position as the husband of the victims’ half-sister as a means to get access to them “and progressively and in an escalating manner normalised the sexual abuse of them”.
“You conditioned these young women from the time they were only girls to comply with your conduct,” the judge told him.
The offending happened at family get-togethers, after rugby matches and on one occasion when the main victim was babysitting.
The jury found him guilty on seven charges, including one representative of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, two representative charges of rape and four charges of indecent assault.
The man’s lawyer James Gurnick accepted he and the Crown were quite apart in terms of a starting point for sentencing - 10 years and 16 years, respectively.
Gurnick said the starting point could be reduced due to his client’s “mistaken belief in consent”, adding that there was a consensual relationship between the main victim when she turned 15 that also included a threesome.
“I would say it’s not even close to what the Crown submits as 16 years ... eight to nine years is more appropriate”, and up to 10 years to include the remainder of the offences, he added.
“If you go anywhere near 16 years ... it would not be principled and be manifestly excessive, and I make that point strongly,” Gurnick told the judge.
Although there were several charges, most related to two sets of offending for the main victim; one when she was 12 and one after a rugby final while she was babysitting.
“I accept that there were representative charges that follow [for other incidents] ... but I am inviting Your Honour to be cautious about looking at the number of charges, and especially when 10 of them occurred on two occasions.”
He was also at pains to point out the offending didn’t span 10 years, but rather “periods within 10 years”.
The man was also a father of four and remained close with his former wife, who also gave evidence in his defence at trial.
Crown prosecutor Rebecca Guthrie said since the first incident, there was a degree of normalisation of the offending by the man.
She also urged the judge to temper any discount for good character and youth as it began when he was 19 and didn’t stop until he was aged 30, and given all the circumstances, a 16-year starting point was appropriate.
Despite Gurnick’s strong recommendations, Justice Jargose agreed with the Crown.
“Your conduct was essentially predatory grooming,” he told the man. “Taking advantage of the victim’s presence as part of your wider family’s household with your wife and your children.
“It progressed from increasingly intimate sexual touching of their bodies through digital and device penetration to rape. That dynamic is evident in all of your offending.”
The oldest victim, in her statement, said she continued to go along with it to protect her younger sisters, along with his wife.
“She said she was just a kid who didn’t know any better, but you were a fully grown adult and you knew exactly what you were doing ... you left a hole in her heart from all the pain she went through.”
A younger victim was angry at him for the loss of her childhood, while the other felt betrayed and manipulated by someone who was meant to be an older brother figure to her.
Justice Jagose did not accept Gurnick’s submission that the offending could be seen as a single incident of limited occurrence on a few other occasions.
“Rather, it’s your decade-long progressive targeting of young female relatives entitled to look to you for protection rather than predation.”
He took a starting point of 16 years’ imprisonment before allowing a discount for his family circumstances and effects on his children and coming to an end term of 14 years and five months’ jail.
Belinda Feek is an Open Justice reporter based in Waikato. She has worked at NZME for eight years and been a journalist for 19.