Gym coach jailed for hundreds of sexual offences

Gregory David Pask appears in Blenheim District Court for sentencing. Photo: RNZ
Gregory David Pask appears in Blenheim District Court for sentencing. Photo: RNZ

Content warning: The contents of this story may upset some people

A former gymnastics coach has been sentenced to almost 16 years in prison for committing more than 250 sexual offences against young girls in his care over the last decade.

Gregory David Pask, 61, appeared in the Blenheim District Court on Wednesday for sentencing on 60 charges of sexual offending that included unlawful sexual connection, doing indecent acts as well as making and possessing objectionable publications.

The charges relate to five known victims - and a number who could not be identified.

Last December, Pask plead guilty to nearly 30 charges of sexual offending, before admitting to more charges last month.

He had been a coach at the Blenheim Gymnastics Club for the last 25 years and was a trusted member of the community, coaching the 7- to 11-year-old age group, which meant he had contact with up to 180 children a week, mostly young girls.

Many of the charges were representative - which meant multiple offences of the same type were alleged to have been committed in similar circumstances.

He was sentenced to 15 years and nine months in prison, with a non-parole period of 10 years.

The scale of Gregory Pask's sexual offending

Pask was trusted by many given his role at the gymnastics club and as a result, often took young girls away to competitions outside of Blenheim, without their parents. Several families also allowed their daughters to stay at his house during weekends and holidays.

Almost 50 of the charges relate to five known victims, who were aged between 6 and 11 years old, between 2015 and 2023.

Police identified 256 offences were committed by Pask against girls over almost eight years. Many of his victims were assaulted while they were asleep at his home.

Further offending occurred in Pask's car while travelling to gymnastics trips, in other people's homes and in accommodation in Christchurch.

He made recordings of his offending on more than 100 occasions, which were found stored on devices kept in his bedroom.

Police have said there are a number of victims who could not be identified in the recordings - with Pask committing 46 offences against the unknown victims over nearly eight years.

As part of the investigation, thousands of videos and images depicting the sexual assault of children were also found on storage devices in Pask's home.

The victims

One of the victims saw Pask as a grandfather figure. She and her family met him through the gymnastics club and she stayed at his house every fortnight for four years, from when she was 6 years old, and travelled with him once for a gymnastics trip.

Pask sexually assaulted her numerous times, committing 156 offences over six years. He took more than 60 photos and videos of her and of himself violating her.

The girl's mother said she had trusted Pask with the care of her child. On occasion, she noticed her daughter returned home with red, swollen and inflamed genitals.

Another victim said she had been so scared of Pask entering her bedroom, that she placed a sign on the door that said "no adult boys were allowed" in her room.

Pask told the her it did not apply to him, and he went on to sexually assault her on a number of occasions.

Police said eight of the charges relate to sexual offending against victims that have not been able to be identified as Pask declined to assist with the investigation.

Some of the victims' parents read statements amid tears in court - the contents of which were suppressed.

Crown prosecutor Jackson Webber said the impact of the abuse was harrowing.

"So much damage caused to so many people because one man put his desires for perverse, sexual gratification above everything else and above everyone else.

"The harm has been massive and it will echo for years, for decades and in some cases probably for lifetimes."

A police investigation

A search warrant was executed at Pask's Blenheim home last September after the abuse of one of his victims came to light. During the search, multiple digital storage devices were found in his bedroom.

Pask had arranged the photos and recordings of his offending into folders by date.

They included multiple violations of indecent acts and he was charged according to one offence type per folder - meaning the true number of offences he committed was much higher.

The storage devices also contained thousands of files showing the sexual assault of children that had been downloaded from the internet, the earliest in 2001.

When questioned by police, Pask admitted to some of the offending, but denied other aspects.

He said he got enjoyment from his actions, he did not know why he had done it and that he needed help. He claimed to have a great deal of affection for the children and families he offended against.

The sentence

The Crown argued there were a number of aggravating features of the offending, the high level of pre-meditation, the vulnerability of the victims, the breach of trust, the harm caused and the scale of the offending in terms of the number of victims, offences, the length of time and the degrading acts.

Webber said Pask had made more recordings of his offending than had been documented in any other case in New Zealand.

Defence lawyer Marcus Zintl said Pask was at a loss to explain the sexual abuse and he both wanted - and needed - professional help.

"This has been a significant fall from grace, he was a pillar of the Blenheim gymnastics community, a volunteer coach ... and now he has to live with the guilt, shame and humiliation of his actions for the rest of his life."

Judge Garry Barkle said Pask had shown a complex level of manipulative and secretive behaviour and he had groomed his victims over many years, deceiving many people in the wider community.

"The effects of your hideous conduct will be felt for a large number of years and should not be underestimated. The level of harm you have caused Mr Pask is incalculable, it has been utterly destructive and each of the victims and their families are now living lives that none of them deserve."

Moving forward

In a statement, the Blenheim Gymnastics Club said it remained shocked and appalled by the offending committed by Pask, a person who occupied a position of trust in the community.

Club members recently met with the police and Oranga Tamariki to learn about how to protect the club and community from sexual offenders who prey on children.

"We will now work with Gymnastics New Zealand and its child safeguarding experts to consider how this advice can be incorporated into the club's child safeguarding policies and practices to ensure this type of offending never happens again."

"We wish to reassure members that the club is a safe place, and that it will continue to serve our community by providing positive and safe gymnastics experiences."

Where to get help for sexual violence:

NZ Police

Victim Support 0800 842 846

Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00

Rape Prevention Education

Empowerment Trust

HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): 04 801 6655 - push 0 at the menu

Safe to talk: a 24/7 confidential helpline for survivors, support people and those with harmful sexual behaviour: 0800044334

Male Survivors Aotearoa

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) 022 344 0496