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Jail term reduced for man who abused his stepdaughter

Date

Mark Russell

A man who sexually abused his stepdaughter for more than four years from the time she was 13 has had his jail term reduced by nearly five years.

Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell and Justices Simon Whelan and Phillip Priest found the man should not have been jailed for 18 years because this was not in line with normal sentencing practices.

The stepfather, 49, had pleaded guilty to 13 counts of incest, one count of producing child pornography and one count of committing an indecent act with a 16 or 17 year old child under his care, supervision or authority, and was jailed for 18 years and eight months with a non-parole period of 14 years and eight months.

The judges granted the stepfather’s appeal and jailed him for 14 years with a non-parole period of 10 years.

‘‘This was ... extremely serious offending,’’ Justices Maxwell and Whelan said in their judgment.

‘‘Not only did the applicant’s (the stepfather’s) persistent sexual abuse take away his victim’s childhood, but he humiliated and degraded her.

‘‘That he posted pictures of his acts of penetration on the internet for the gratification of others simply defies credulity. 

‘‘The conclusion that the sentence must nevertheless be reduced is a reflection not of any undervaluing of the seriousness of the offending but rather of the fundamental importance of consistency of sentencing.

‘‘As this court has often pointed out, an offender who pleads guilty is reasonably entitled to assume that he/she will be sentenced in accordance with current sentencing practices.’’

In his summary of the case, Justice Priest said the stepfather touched the girl for the first time in 2007 when she was 13 and she complained to her school counsellor.

Police and the Department of Human Services became involved but the stepfather pressured the girl to withdraw her complaint, telling her the family would be ruined if she didn’t.

‘‘Although police investigated, it was determined that no offence had been committed,’’ Justice Priest said. ‘‘Given the treatment of the victim’s complaint by the authorities, it seems that the applicant became emboldened to continue his criminal conduct.’’

The stepfather went on to abuse the girl for another four years, including making her join a pornographic website where he would post degrading photographs of her, including her face.

‘‘The applicant, for his own selfish sexual gratification, defiled the victim when she was a young adolescent, and continued over four-and-a-half of her teenage years to violate her in a most despicable fashion,’’ the judge said.

‘‘During that extended period the applicant used the victim as his sexual plaything, and subjected her to humiliating and degrading conduct demonstrating the utmost depravity.

‘‘At many times whilst he was engaging in sexual activity with the victim, the applicant warned the victim not to tell anyone about their relationship because of the effect it would have on her mother and on him.’’

The stepfather was caught in February 2012 when the victim’s brother accidentally accessed her Facebook account and saw ‘‘concerning messages from the applicant’’, the judge said. 

The brother told their biological father what he had found before the victim contacted the stepfather who urged her to ‘‘wipe everything’’ from her computer. 

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