In Australia, 13.5 per cent of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a father or stepfather, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. Breaching such a position and breaking the trust formed between family members can have lasting effects on sexual assault victims. This was unfortunately the case in a recent court appeal at the Supreme Court NSW involving a stepfather and his two stepdaughters.
What was the background of the case?
The applicant became the two girls’ stepfather after marrying their mother in 2002. It wasn’t until 2009, when both girls were around the age of 11, that the attacks began. The first girl recalled the man entering her bedroom at night on numerous occasions and placing his hands down her pants. She said she spoke with her mother about him entering the room, but not about the touching as she was too afraid of her.
The second girl shared similar experiences, with the addition of him forcing her to touch his private parts. She revealed she felt scared by him and later in the year, she tried to hang herself. The young girl felt like she would never get out of the situation.
What did the stepfather seek leave to appeal?
On 28 July 2017, the stepfather was found guilty of five out of eight offences made against him. These fell under the umbrella of aggravated indecent assault which provides a maximum penalty imprisonment of 10 years, in accordance with the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). The primary judge sentenced him following these regulations, with a non-parole period of seven years.
The applicant sought leave to appeal on the grounds that her honour erred in her assessment of the seriousness of offences, and as a result, the final sentence was manifestly excessive.
What did the judge conclude?
After reviewing all evidence and hearing the applicant’s submissions, the judge came to the following conclusions:
Despite the applicant’s prior report of good character and healthy mental state, the seriousness of the offences and the aftermath of such – namely the attempted hanging – was a cause for his leave of appeal to be dismissed.
As a sexual assault victim, it’s never too late to come forward. Here at Gerard Malouf & Partners, we appreciate that such sensitive matters take courage and time to seek help. When you’re ready to seek justice for your trauma, give us a call today and find out how we can help you.