Cases of child sexual assault are unfortunately prevalent around the country, with 13.5 per cent of such caused by a father or stepfather, according to data from the Australian Institute of Criminology.
Thankfully, in 2016, the NSW Government passed legislation removing time limitations on claims for child sexual abuse, giving victims unlimited time to come forward and receive help.
This was prevalent in one case recently brought before the District Court of NSW which involved a stepfather and stepdaughter.
Events leading up to the hearing
The complainant (the stepdaughter) was born in 2007 and was, at all relevant times, under 10 years old. At the time of proceedings, the offender was 42 years of age and the child's stepfather.
On the morning of April 13, 2018, after the offender had left home for work, the child told her mother that on the evening before, the man had masturbated in front of her. The woman then contacted the offender letting him know what she had been told. He came home visibly upset and apologised for his actions, claiming he didn't know why it happened. As a result, the offender called the local police station and told an officer he had been doing things of a sexual nature to his stepdaughter. He was placed under arrest.
In a police interview, the stepfather made admissions to a number of offences, including sexual intercourse. He openly admitted to grooming the child and knew his actions were wrong.
What did the court decide?
During the hearing, the court learned that the offender had lived with schizophrenia for many years. In response, while admitting that he sought sexual gratification from the child and was aware of how illegal his actions were, the stepfather claimed they were influenced by his illness.
As such, the court concluded that the offender shouldn't be punished as severely as others. Furthermore, his expression of guilt also reduced his sentence. They also decided, based on the evidence, that he did not present a particular risk on release if adequately supervised and he sought treatment.
However, mentally ill or not, they wanted to impose a sentence that would ensure he appreciated the consequences of his actions. This came to a sentence of seven years imprisonment with a non-parole period of four years and four months.
If you've been sexually abused and want to know your rights and entitlements, get in touch with the expert lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners today.