Man in under-age sex act fails in appeal bid

Dan Benny
Dan Benny
A national sporting representative who paid $50 for a 13-year-old to perform a sex act on him in a Dunedin car park can now be named.

Dan William Benny (26), who has played for the New Zealand Australian rules football team, admitted a charge of procuring commercial sexual services from an under-18 but failed in a bid for a discharge without conviction.

In February, Judge Kevin Phillips sentenced Benny to three months' community detention and 100 hours' community work, and declined permanent name suppression.

While the defendant accepted the penalty, he appealed the latter ruling which has kept his name under wraps until now.

It can now be revealed Benny was working at South Dunedin's multisport venue the Edgar Centre and was coaching a high-school football team while completing a masters in planning at the University of Otago.

He recently finished his studies. One of his professors provided an affidavit to the court calling him a ``top student'' with an ``impressive academic record''.

It was the consequences of his name being published on Benny's career prospects that were the crux of an appeal heard in the High Court at Dunedin last month.

While Justice Rachel Dunningham accepted the conviction would ``no doubt prompt surprise and inquiry from a future employer or client'', it did not amount to extreme hardship and she dismissed the appeal in a recent judgement.

The defendant and his friend were at an ATM in King Edward St at 11.30pm on March 11 last year, when they were approached by two girls aged 13 and 14 who asked for money for food.

One of the men asked what they would get in return for the cash and the 13-year-old offered full sex for $200.

After some negotiation, Benny agreed to pay $50 for the teen to perform oral sex on him and the transaction took place in a nearby car park.

Judge Phillips called him ``a man of high intelligence, high endeavour and high ability, good family background, good character up until now'' but was stunned by the offending.

``He's mature and sober, she's totally immature and drunk. Thirteen,'' the judge said.

Counsel Campbell Savage said the man, who previously had an unblemished criminal record, never considered how old the girl may have been.

``They presented in the central city late at night, dressed up, having been out partying,'' he said.

Mr Savage described the offending as ``opportunistic and unpremeditated'' and emphasised it was out of character for his client to behave in such a manner.

In a bid to have Benny's name permanently suppressed he stressed the potency of the internet and the fact the information about the lurid indiscretion would follow the man throughout his professional life.

Mr Savage said the black mark might also affect his client's ability to act as an expert witness in court.

Benny's skill level in his chosen field worked to his detriment at appeal.

``With the passage of time, [the conviction and publicity] is likely to be overshadowed by his level of professional expertise,'' the judge said.

Crown prosecutor Richard Smith said the consequences likely to follow the defendant were simply those that could be expected for such offending.

There was no evidence of Benny suffering extreme hardship beyond that, he said.

Justice Dunningham agreed - by ``some margin'' - and rejected the appeal.

Mr Savage confirmed the name suppression argument would not be advanced to the Court of Appeal.