Sex offender sent to jail; victim left afraid of dark

A Hamilton man has been sentenced to two and-a-half years' prison for a sexual attack in a Dunedin residential hall that has left the formerly ''bright and confident'' victim afraid of the dark.

Nicholas Anthony Van Rooy (24) was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court yesterday after earlier being found guilty by a jury of sexually violating the young woman by having unlawful sexual connection with her on June 16, 2012.

The young woman was drunk and asleep in her bed at a student residential hall at the time of the attack, during which Van Rooy digitally penetrated her as he took her clothes off.

The offending took place after the complainant became very drunk at a restaurant where Van Rooy and his brothers were present.

She came home, was sick, then went to sleep in her bed. Van Rooy and his brothers were staying at the same hall of residence and the accused later went to the complainant's room, got into her bed and the offending took place.

In sentencing, Judge Kevin Phillips noted the impact on the woman and her family, referring to a victim impact statement written by her father.

''This has had an impact of a major kind emotionally upon her; she is fearful of strangers and crowds and being alone at night.''

It had also affected her studies and deeply affected her parents and sister, who provided care to her after the incident.

''The family are going to have to go through a long recovery process. It is a tragedy for them.''

Judge Phillips did not accept Van Rooy's argument he was under the mistaken impression she had given him consent, saying he knew she was drunk, having seen her vomiting, and as he admitted to police was ''trying his luck''.

''You were taking an opportunity with a young female you knew was grossly intoxicated.''

Van Rooy was also ''breaching the trust'' of the residential hall, where he was a guest while in Dunedin to attend a funeral. It was to his credit that he left after the victim woke up and asked him to leave.

''[But] by that stage, the damage had been done.''

He praised a visibly upset Van Rooy for getting through previous personal problems, but said he ''put all of that at risk'' with his actions that night.

Judge Phillips gave a sentence of two and a-half years' prison after making a reduction of 15% for good character and 1% for remorse.

Prosecuting counsel Craig Power earlier argued a starting point for sentence should be three and a-half to four years, saying the offending had two main aggravating factors.

The first was the vulnerability of the victim, with her being asleep with the door closed before the offending. The second factor was the harm the offending caused her and her family. She had gone from being a ''bright and confident'' young woman to someone who was afraid of strangers, the dark and being alone in her bed.

Judge Phillips said the offending also constituted a ''breach of trust'' as he had been invited to stay in the residential hall, which came with responsibilities.

Defence counsel Paul Mabey QC argued for a starting point of three years, saying Van Rooy was a man of ''good character''.

His pre-sentence report noted he was a low risk of reoffending and while he still maintained his belief the victim had given him consent, he was remorseful.

Until June 16, 2012, Van Rooy's life was on track after getting himself through previous personal problems.

''It's a tragedy for him that he's here; it's a tragedy for everybody,'' Mr Mabey said.

''His life, at least for now, has been ruined.''

 

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