Man’s ‘disturbing’ sex abuse of teen relative
Warning: Graphic content
A man who played computer games in a caravan with his cousin's underage granddaughter told police he spent time alone with her to "avoid" her abusive grandfather in a nearby house.
But the reality was he was having sex with the girl, who was aged 14 and 15 at the time of the offending, and had asked her to promise that she wouldn't tell anyone.
He also told her grandmother one morning that her "pale appearance" was due to nightmares.
"This was a sad case," Judge Alister Abadee said as he sentenced the 44-year-old man in the NSW District Court late last month.
"What started as a friendship between the offender and victim, both relatives (albeit an indirect sense), developed into a plainly inappropriate relationship leading ultimately to serious criminal behaviour sustained over a period of months."
The man pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual intercourse with a victim under the age of 16, each charge carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years behind bars.
"The offender was indirectly related to the victim: he is the cousin of a woman who is married to a man - the paternal grandfather of the victim," Judge Abadee said.
The offences were committed in Rydalmere, in Sydney's northwest, between January and July 2015 when the man was aged 39 and 40.
The victim lived in the custody of her grandparents where the offender also lived in late 2014.
"The victim is a troubled youth, yearning for love and nurturing after having come from what she described as a broken family; and the offender himself had mental issues and a sense of social alienation," the judge said.
"He disturbingly received gratification, of an emotional and sexual kind, in repeated instances, against his better judgment; and has exacerbated the victim's pre-existing significant emotional and mental scars."
The facts state that in January 2015, the man and girl were "talking and playing computer games" alone in a caravan parked at the side of the house.
The victim later told police this had gone on for four months and was "just a game we had".
She kissed him on the cheek, stating she was just "playing around", and he pushed her away.
But after some time, they began kissing each other and "started to touch each other over all their bodies".
Even when the girl's grandmother called out that it was late and time for her to "go to bed", the underage victim replied "no" and the pair stayed in the caravan.
"The offender fondled the victim's breasts and the victim fondled the offender's penis," the facts state.
The man inserted his fingers in the girl until 1am or 2am and asked her to "go down" on him.
"At about 3am … the offender asked the victim to promise that she would not tell anyone," the judge said.
"Thereafter, the offender and victim engaged in further sexual acts.
"Later the victim told police that she encouraged the offender to 'keep going'.
"By this, she explained, she wanted to engage in penile vaginal sexual intercourse, but the offender refused (to this point) as he thought she was a virgin."
This had changed by March or early April 2015 when the third offence was committed.
In May of that year, the girl told the man she had been abused by her grandfather since she was seven. He told her to tell her grandmother, which she did, and also to tell the police.
The offender made a statement to police in July 2015.
"What was notable about that statement was the offender's explanation for how he came to spend more time alone with the victim," Judge Abadee said.
"It was, he reportedly said to 'avoid' the grandfather."
But the judge said this statement understated the man's true position to the police and "amounted to a material nondisclosure of the true relationship" he had with the victim.
"These events also put the offender on notice of her peculiarly fragile state of mental health," he said.
The offender also had sex with the underage girl when he took her to his sister's house, slipping into her bed when the sister was asleep and later when the woman had gone out.
"This offending conduct was exploitative and predatory," the judge said.
Judge Abadee said the man had already recognised the "wrongfulness of sexual conduct towards children" when he encouraged the girl to tell the police about her grandfather's abuse.
"For the offender to engage in sexual activity with the victim at a point which was contemporaneous with his advice to the victim to report her grandfather was highly culpable," the judge said.
"It involved his taking advantage of the victim's precarious emotional state when the offender knew that what the victim was likely to be looking for was his emotional support."
He said the man's exploitation of the situation was of a "high order".
"The facts indicate that, after the offending conduct occurred later in the morning, the offender spoke to the victim's grandmother and misleadingly attributed the victim's pale appearance to her suffering nightmares," Judge Abadee said.
In a report to the court, a clinical psychologist said the offender had a happy childhood with parents in a stable marriage. He finished school in year 10 and completed short courses in IT and web design.
In the late 1990s, when he was about 25, he hit and killed someone on the road and was charged with negligent driving causing death.
Up to the age of 29, he told the psychologist only had one relationship.
Results from psychometric testing indicated the man suffers from severe depression and the psychologist diagnosed him with adjustment disorder, mixed anxiety and depressive symptoms.
But the judge refused to accept a "causal connection" between the man's psychological condition and his five offences.
"I accept, in a general way, that at the time of the offending, the offender felt lonely and socially isolated," the judge said.
"I do not accept that his symptoms impaired his cognitive facilities, capacity to make reasoned judgments or diminished his ability to understand the wrongfulness of his conduct."
He said prison was the only option but set an aggregate or concurrent sentence for the crimes.
He jailed the man for eight years and nine months with a non-parole period of five years and three months.
With time already served, the child sex offender will be eligible for parole in November 2024.
*For 24-hour sexual or domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.