A BENDIGO man has pleaded guilty to the carnal knowledge and indecent assault of a four-year-old relative from the 1970s after hearing her “persuasive” evidence before a jury.
The trial into the man in his 60s, who has not been named to protect the victim’s identity, started this week but he decided to plead guilty to the two charges on Friday.
The man was aged between 17 and 19 when the offence occurred on a day in the mid-1970s, but he claimed he had no memory of the incident due to a chronic drinking problem.
The court heard the man led the child away from a family gathering and committed the offences.
The girl suffered severe pain and told other family members, but none could recall the incident 40 years later.
Prosecutor David Cordy said the girl carried the burden of the incident throughout her childhood.
“She didn’t understand the sexual nature, all she understood was that it was wrong,” he said.
“As a woman… she decided to do something about it.”
She contacted police more than 40 years after the incident, and they started to investigate.
The woman contacted the accused by phone and recorded the conversation. They met later that day, and the man apologised but claimed he could not remember it.
He told her he had a “serious drinking problem” in his late teens and early 20s, and could recall little of that period.
A judge described her evidence to a jury as “persuasive” and “particularly impressive”, and the man pleaded guilty.
In a victim impact statement, the woman said she was “ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated”, and carried the guilt for 40 years.
“If he hadn’t done this to me, what would I have become?” she wrote.
The court heard that up until 1958, the crime of carnal knowledge against a child under 10 carried a maximum penalty of the death penalty in Victoria.
Defence counsel Russell Kelly said the man had displayed “qualified remorse” given his inability to remember the incident.
He said a partially suspended sentence was available to the judge in sentencing.
Mr Cordy said that proposition was “totally inappropriate” and “unacceptable to any right-minded person in the community”.
“No one should misinterpret the criminality of the offences against a four-year-old girl,” he said.
“Community expectation for this kind of behaviour is that the perpetrator will lose his or her liberty.”
Judge Frank Gucciardo fought back tears towards the end of the hearing.
He will sentence the man later this month.