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A Central Otago businessman who sexually abused his step-daughter and three of her friends has been sentenced to 12 years four months' imprisonment.
The man in his 60s – who was granted permanent name suppression to protect the victims – was also ordered to pay each of them $5000.
After an October trial at the Dunedin District Court, the jury found him guilty on three charges of rape, three of indecency with a girl under 12, two of committing indecent acts on a young person under 16 and one of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection.
Judge Michael Crosbie rejected the defence allegation that the sex attacks were “sporadic and opportunistic”,
“It seems to me there must have been an element of planning if not preying on young and vulnerable women who you knew were in your home and on whom you carried out these acts,” the judge said.
He also stressed the man in the dock had previous convictions for groping two teenagers and had then been sentenced to community detention and community work.
The allegations which led to the prosecution arose in 2015 when a woman came forward to say the defendant had abused her when she was a child.
Prompted by her complaint, three others came forward with similarly distressing stories.
One victim read a statement today calling her ordeal “the most horrific night of my life”.
“All it takes is one thought, word or feeling to provoke all the memories of that night,” she said.
While some people got closure from confronting their abuser, the woman said it had the opposite effect; it reopened old wounds.
“I find myself with questions regularly: why didn't I fight? Why didn't I leave? Why didn't I tell my parents?”
Like her, another victim said she had self-harmed in the years following the trauma.
It was the second woman whose allegations sparked the police enquiry - she said she was inspired by seeing a sex-abuse survivor speak on television.
Her mental state reached such depths she spent time in hospital for drug addiction, the court heard.
“The offending has affected every part of my life,” the victim said.
“He has pretty much murdered me, because I was so young. My life was taken.”
Most of the abuse took place between 1999 and 2006, the court heard, with some as recently as 2010.
The defendant's step-daughter told the jury about watching one of her friends being raped while the defendant filmed it.
The victims spoke of other instances when the man would lay them on a towel and cover them in baby oil or powder.
One spoke about a scenario where all four girls were on the defendant's bed and were each forced to rotate and take a turn lying next to him.
She told the jury how her abuser would play adult movies for the girls and he was “always sexual”, which saw her become upset and ask to go home on one occasion.
The defendant threatened to put her in a dog kennel if she did not behave.
In a recent pre-sentence interview, he continued to deny the offending and claimed he was “set up” by the quartet.
But after being visited in prison by his counsel Bill Dawkins three weeks ago he wrote an apology letter making some concessions.
“Arguably there's a bit of minimising still going on, they're not articulate . . . parts seem to be a bit clumsy. But the point I try to make is . . . it's a start,” Mr Dawkins said.
Judge Crosbie said the letters were not indicative of genuine remorse.
“They fall short of that,” he said.
"You apologise for emotional harm. You apologise for overstepping the mark . . . a complete understatement. Where you say you apologise for your behaviour, your letters don't take ownership of what that behaviour was.”
The judge fixed a minimum non-parole period of six years two months