Bendigo man jailed for nine months for committing child abuse in the 1970s

A BENDIGO man has been jailed for nine months for the sexual abuse of a four-year-old relative in the 1970s.

The man in his 60s, who has not been named to protect the victim’s identity, avoided a longer jail term because he committed the offence when aged as young as 17, and he would have been subject to a youth justice order at the time.

He pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges of carnal knowledge and indecent assault – both of which occurred during the same incident at a family gathering in Bendigo.

The man led the girl away from the house and committed the offences, causing her severe pain. The girl told her family, but no action was taken.

The man later claimed he had no recollection of the events when questioned 40 years later, citing his problems with alcohol in the 1970s. The family also denied remembering the incident.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, the victim detailed the lifelong impact of the crime and the ongoing psychological effects it has caused her and her family.

Her parents also provided victim impact statements in which they outlined their “sense of guilt”.

Statements were tendered to court outlining the accused’s standing in the community in recent decades, but none addressed the impact the crime would have had on the victim.

Judge Frank Gucciardo described that as “a pity”.

In sentencing last week, he said the community expected the courts to protect society’s most vulnerable people.

“I have little doubt that the community and the law expects, particularly offences committed against young children, to merit substantial punishment,” Judge Gucciardo said.

“Those who bring hurt fear and corrupt the innocent, damage their physical integrity at the most vulnerable, must expect punishment and the severity of the sanctions should be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence.”

He said he had to consider the man’s youth at the time of the offending and sentencing practices at the time. The maximum penalty for carnal knowledge was higher in the 1970s than in 2017.

Judge Gucciardo said there was now greater understanding of the lifelong impacts of child abuse.

“You would have been dealt with as a youthful offender. That should focus this offence on rehabilitation despite the loss of opportunity to be sentenced as such then,” he said.

The man was convicted and sentenced to two years and nine months in prison, with 24 months to be suspended for 24 months.

He must serve nine months in prison. He was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 15 years.