A CENTRAL Victorian man has admitted to sexually abusing his young niece over the span of three years.
The 53-year-old man appeared in the County Court on Wednesday where he pleaded guilty to one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16.
The court heard the man started abusing his niece when the girl was 12 years old.
Over a three-year period, the man sexually assaulted the girl on four separate occasions.
The offending took place at the girl's home, the man's property, and at a family friend's house.
The victim disclosed the abuse to a psychologist in mid-2018. The psychologist subsequently reported the incidents to police.
The man was arrested and interviewed in July 2018. He told police he used to "do a lot of things" with the girl and that he would often stay overnight at her house.
The man responded with "no comment" when asked about the allegations, but later told police he was "deeply sorry for whatever (he had) done wrong".
A statement from the victim was read to the County Court on Wednesday.
In the statement, the girl said she had felt scared when the abuse started and had been worried that no-one would believe her.
The girl wrote that she had suicidal ideations and had self-harmed as a result of the abuse.
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The statement said the girl had since found support in her family and friends, and she was now happy to live the rest of her life.
Defence counsel Eleanor Millar told the court her client had been diagnosed with a moderate intellectual disability as a child.
Ms Millar said psychological reports tendered to the court said there was a causal link between that disability and the man's offending.
The defence counsel said the man had also been diagnosed with avoidant and borderline personality disorders, and an adjustment disorder.
Ms Millar said those conditions, as well as his intellectual disability, would make prison more "burdensome" for the man.
The defence counsel said there was a lack of aggravating features in the offending.
Ms Millar said the incidents were "relatively opportunistic" and there was no evidence of grooming or degrading acts.
The defence counsel said given the man had no prior convictions, a community corrections order without a term of imprisonment would be an appropriate sentence.
Prosecutor Brett Sonnet told the court the victim had experienced profound harm, which was evident in her statement.
Mr Sonnet said it was conceded that the man had an intellectual disability during the offending, but that should not excuse his behaviour.
Judge Sarah Dawes said she was yet to form a view on whether the man should serve some time in prison.
Judge Dawes adjourned the plea to a date yet to be fixed. The man will be assessed for a community corrections order and justice plan in the interim.
The man's bail was extended to his next court date.
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