Autism key to sentence change to home detention

Michael Fraser will undertake an assessment for sex offender treatment while on home detention....
Michael Fraser will undertake an assessment for sex offender treatment while on home detention. PHOTO: STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
A Dunedin man who slapped, strangled and tried to rape a woman has been released from prison after six months because of his autism.

Michael John Danyon Fraser (26) was originally jailed for two years and three months over the attack but that was converted to six months’ home detention following a successful appeal to the High Court this month.

In a recently released judgement, Justice Jonathan Eaton accepted the defendant’s autism spectrum disorder was a "key aspect" and tipped the balance in favour of a community-based sentence.

Fraser met the victim in an Octagon bar during a night out on April 23 and they went back to his home.

During consensual intercourse, the defendant slapped the woman and laughed when she told him not to do it again.

Later, Fraser strangled the victim for up to 20 seconds as she struggled for breath.

She fled to the bathroom and messaged her friend to pick her up, then returned to the bedroom to gather her belongings.

Instead of letting her go, Fraser forced her on to the bed, pinning her down by the shoulders, as she tried to fight him off.

The victim brought her knees up to her chest and repeatedly yelled "no" and "stop" as Fraser tried to pull them apart, the court heard.

He told her she was not leaving and closed the bedroom door before returning to the bed where the sexually motivated attack continued.

They struggled for several minutes, court documents said, before Fraser finally released her.

While the victim got dressed, the man groped her.

Justice Eaton said the victim’s statement made it clear the trauma she suffered at his hands.

"I hope Mr Fraser has read that statement. This offending has had very real and lasting consequences that have adversely impacted the victim who was left both physically and mentally traumatised from this attack," he said.

Crown prosecutor Richard Smith strongly opposed the appeal and described the original jail term as "generous".

He said once the consensual sexual activity ended, the victim made it clear she did not want to continue.

Fraser’s comments — "you’re not going anywhere ... you can’t leave" — made it clear he understood her position, Mr Smith said.

A report by psychiatrist Dr Russell Wyness said the defendant’s disorder made it difficult for him to identify the emotional and mental states of others.

"I believe that Mr Fraser’s autistic features resulted in him failing to perceive and appreciate the signs, gestures and behaviours which his sexual partners are exhibiting," he wrote.

Justice Eaton said that might have explained the slap and the strangulation but "the situation shifted significantly when intercourse ended".

"His words confirm his understanding of her wish to leave. That could only indicate his understanding that she was no longer consenting," the judge said.

"Although I have considered there to be shortcomings in the report of Dr Wyness, I accept his opinion that Mr Fraser’s autistic spectrum features have played a ‘key aspect’ in his offending."

While on home detention, Fraser will undergo an assessment for specialist sex-offender treatment.