ACT News

James March sentenced to seven years and nine months jail for raping woman during Canberra burglary

A man who repeatedly raped a terrified 18-year-old woman he found sleeping during a burglary has been sentenced to seven years and nine months imprisonment.

The crimes of James March, 27, have variably been described as "everybody's worst nightmare", "a horrendous personal violation", and the destruction of the victim's "entire sense of safety".

It was dark, and the young woman was asleep in her bed in a backyard granny flat outside her family home late one night in September last year.

March, approaching the property at random, came in through an open door, smelling of alcohol.

The victim told him to leave, and tried to reach for her phone.

March, an intimidating man, warned her "don't touch it".


He raped her repeatedly in a terrifying ordeal that lasted two hours.

His behaviour was erratic, at one point saying "I shouldn't be doing this" and "I've ruined your life, I'm sorry", before going on to threaten her, saying: "I really don't want to have to come back and hurt you, or make you disappear."

As he left, March noticed her name printed on a letter in the room.

He winked at her and deliberately used the name as he said goodbye.

The victim was left scared March would come back and hurt her or her family, and didn't report the crime to police for weeks.

March fled to Queensland, but DNA evidence linked him to the scene, and he was arrested and charged.

When police caught up with March, he told them: "I can't believe I've done this shit".

Chief Justice Helen Murrell sentenced March to seven years and nine months imprisonment on Thursday morning.

She set a non-parole period of five years and two months, meaning he will be eligible for release in January 2019.

At the outset, Chief Justice Murrell expressed her sympathy to the victim and family.

"These offences are a horrendous personal violation of the victim and on behalf of the community I express the deep sympathy of the court to the victim and her family."

March sat with his head down for much of the sentencing, his leg quickly bouncing up and down.

The court heard he was taken from his parents at a young age, began using cannabis when he was eight, and now consumes an average of 1.4 litres of hard liquor daily. 

His crime had a devastating impact on the victim and her family.

The young woman struggled to sleep at night, was frightened to be alone, lost a boyfriend, a job, and her hopes to travel overseas. 

"The offence violated not only the victim's body, but also her home and her entire sense of safety," Chief Justice Murrell said.