Lismore Courthouse.
Lismore Courthouse.

Man jailed for molestation

A 65-YEAR-OLD Murwillumbah man who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three of his daughters and two of their friends was handed a seven-and-a-half-year jail sentence yesterday.

During sentencing in the Lismore District Court, Judge James Black commended the dignity, restraint and courage of the five victims and their families, four of whom read their own statements detailing the continuing impact of the assaults on their lives, while the statement of a fifth victim was read to the court by her counsellor.

A court order preventing publication of the perpetrator's name remains in place to protect the identity of the victims.

The assaults were carried out over two marriages while the victims were young girls.

Six of the nine charges related to the sexual assault of two daughters from his first marriage, and two friends, between 1971 and 1982, while a further three charges related to more recent assaults carried out upon a daughter from his second marriage.

While both the Crown prosecutor and Judge Black acknowledged the perpetrator's contrition in pleading guilty and sparing the victims further grief - which gained him a 25% reduction in time to be served - Judge Black described the crimes as a grave betrayal of trust with far-reaching ramifications on the victims' lives.

In arguing the mitigating circumstances, defence barrister Megan Cusack said her client accepted the inevitability of a custodial sentence and told the court that from the outset he had chosen to plead guilty so there was "no way his daughters would have to take the witness stand".

She also asked the court to take into account her client's age and failing health, while raising the issue that if he had been brought to trial for the first six charges at the time of the crimes, the maximum sentences would have been significantly lower.

While acknowledging these factors, Judge Black ruled sentencing had to be based on the totality of the offences. He ordered the man serve a non-parole period of four years.

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