An elderly man who sexually violated and raped his granddaughters has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison, but the father of the victims says he's the one serving a life sentence.

"I can never forgive you, dad, for what you did," the father said in his victim impact statement, which was read during the man's sentencing yesterday .

"I'm so sorry to my daughters for not protecting them. This will always be my life sentence."

One of the victims, who was sexually violated when she was 8 years old, did not want the man to be dealt with too harshly as he was still her grandfather, and "what's done is done".

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"Her biggest fear is that you will die alone in prison," Judge Peter Butler said.

The grandfather, 79, pleaded guilty to three charges of sexual violation, two charges of rape, and two indecent assaults against the two victims.

The second victim, against whom most of the offences were committed, was 14 when the offending began.

The man appeared in Whanganui District Court yesterday for sentencing. Family members sat in the back of the gallery and appeared emotional during the sentencing.

The man, who has permanent name suppression to protect the identity of the victims, sexually violated the first girl in 2007 when she was staying with him.

In 2009, the second girl was sleeping with other family members in the man's lounge when he raped her. She remembered at least two occasions when the man raped her.

The offending against the second girl happened between 2009 and 2011.

When questioned by police, the man said: "I'm not saying it happened but I'm not saying it didn't happen either but if they say it happened, it probably did."

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The victim's father spoke in his impact statement of his disbelief upon hearing of the charges.

He described his father as the very person he felt safe and secure with.

"Having heard his daughters' cries about how they had been hurt and embarrassed, it still plays in his head every night," Judge Butler said.

The father described how both girls had "major trust issues" and were like "strangers just living together".

"The other children have asked if it's okay to laugh in front of the two victims."

At times during the sentencing the grandfather hung his head. He appeared solemn.

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A pre-sentence report assessed the man as being at a medium to high risk of reoffending.

Judge Butler described the offending as a "huge" breach of trust. "Inevitably they will suffer long term," he said.

Defence lawyer Richard Leith said there was no "extra violence" in the offending.

The judge adopted a starting point of 15 years, but taking the man's age, health and efforts at counselling into account, the sentence was nine years and nine months. The man would not be eligible for parole for at least three years and three months.