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Canberra paedophile's sentence halved on appeal

A child predator could be free in October next year after a Canberra court halved his jail sentence.

Aaron James Holliday, 27, was originally jailed for 16 years and six months for abusing three children, but appealed the length of the term.

The ACT Court of Appeal on Wednesday allowed the challenge and halved his sentence to eight years.

He will be eligible for parole in October next year.

The father of one of the victims told Fairfax Media of the disappointment at the decision.

The man said Holliday had made threats to kill and one victim’s family had gone into hiding interstate.


He said the reduced sentence could jeopardise the healing process of the victims at a vulnerable period.

“Our major concern now is the boys won’t even be out of school by the time he could be released on parole,” the father said.

“My son went through a terrible, terrible time and has just really got his life back together and trying to catch up at school, we don’t want anything to derail that.

“Our focus now will be on ensuring [Holliday] doesn’t get parole, particularly while the boys are in school. We want them to finish school without fearing for their lives.”

The court also rejected a cross-appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions for an increased sentence.

Holliday has been locked up for four years after abusing three boys, aged 12 to 15, he befriended between 2006 and 2009.

Holliday abused two of his victims while on bail for showing pornography to a third, despite court orders forbidding him from being with children. He also pleaded guilty to possessing more than 11,000 images and more than 700 videos on his computer, with the material ranging from erotic images of children to hardcore child pornography and bestiality.

Holliday convinced the boys they could help police catch paedophiles by taking part in a fictitious program called ‘‘operation paedobait’’.

He then abused them. The training involved replicating real sex acts, recording at least one incident with his laptop computer and showing the footage to the boy.

The paedophile also offered his victims $50 for training sessions and promised to buy them a dune buggy.

He has been placed on a sex offender register.

Holliday’s barrister, James Lawton, told the three appeal judges – Chief Justice Terence Higgins, Justice Hilary Penfold and Justice John Dowsett – at a February hearing that the sentence was manifestly excessive for a young man with a previously clean record.

The three judges allowed the appeal and overturned the original sentence of Justice Richard Refshauge.

Justice Penfold recommended an 11-year sentence with a minimum of 6 years to serve.

But Chief Justice Higgins and Justice Dowsett, by majority, halved the sentence to eight years, with a non-parole period of 5  years.

The judges, in reasons published on Wednesday, said the lighter sentence would give the paedophile a chance to rehabilitate and change hisways.

 ‘‘A lengthy sentence of imprisonment may offer short-term comfort to victims and their families. However, in the longer term, it does little to assuage their pain,’’ Justice Dowsett wrote.

‘‘The community has an interest in the rehabilitation of an offender.

‘‘A first offender will usually have at least some realistic prospect of rehabilitation.  Such prospect will generally be hindered, rather than helped, by a sentence which is of the order of those usually imposed upon offenders with lengthy records and little hope of rehabilitation.’’