A child sex offender on the brink of death has avoided time behind bars for abusing his position as a tennis coach to molest two of his students in the 1980s.
Earlier this year a jury found John Walter Cattle, 84, guilty of indecently assaulting one young girl and committing an act of indecency on another.
While working as a coach at the Forrest Tennis Club, Cattle lured the first girl into a clubhouse and assaulted her on at least three occasions. He kissed her using his tongue and had her play with his penis, encouraging her to treat the incidents as a game that was "our little secret".
Later in the 1980s, he steered the second girl from a tennis court and into a boys changing room, where he forcibly kissed her.
When Cattle appeared in the ACT Supreme Court for sentence on Friday, the first of his victims read a powerful statement to the court.
She said shame "ruled my life" for 35 years while she kept Cattle's abuse secret and believed it was somehow her fault.
She described being nervous and scared when Cattle took advantage of her and told her in a "calm, reassuring" voice that it was exciting not to be caught.
She said Cattle had taught her how to be deceitful, turning her into "an exceptional actress" who masked her pain as she grew into a rebellious adolescent and became "addicted to the fraud of lying, deceiving and not getting caught".
She said Cattle had taken away her dignity and self-respect by using her as an object for his own sexual gratification with no regard for the impact it would have on her.
The wide-ranging consequences had included strained relationships with her parents and difficulties connecting with friends and romantic partners.
"You gave me 35 years of toxic shame, which I now give back to you," she told Cattle.
"Your actions no longer define me."
Chief Justice Helen Murrell said the second victim and her parents had provided written statements to the court.
That victim had described feeling objectified and worthless after the frightening experience of being molested by Cattle.
The ordeal continued to have devastating and profound impacts on her, including difficulties with long-term relationships.
In their statements, the second victim's parents recalled their daughter's distress after Cattle's offending, significant changes in her personality, and the broader negative impacts on their family.
Crown prosecutor Keegan Lee told Chief Justice Murrell that a jail sentence was the only appropriate penalty for Cattle.
However, he said he did not contest the submission of Cattle's legal team that the sentence should be wholly suspended in light of Cattle's terminal illness.
Chief Justice Murrell imposed a two-year suspended jail sentence, telling the court that Cattle was due to start palliative treatment for incurable cancer next week.
She said the impact of any full-time incarceration would be particularly onerous for Cattle, who presented a limited risk of reoffending.
The judge noted that medical evidence presented by Cattle's legal team suggested that doctors expected the man to die within months, with or without treatment.
She said that with Cattle's jail term suspended, he would be required to enter into a two-year good behaviour order.