Man sentenced for grabbing Central Otago girl

A Christchurch man has been ordered to undergo therapy after grabbing a 7-year-old girl at a Central Otago school-holiday programme.

The girl later told her mother that Terence Raymond Rawson's hand on her thigh felt "like a tarantula - it felt yucky".

The 57-year-old was originally charged with indecent assault, but that was amended to assault, after discussions between police and defence before sentencing at the Dunedin District Court this afternoon.

The court heard Rawson had travelled to Alexandra from his his Rangiora home on January 10 to stay with friends and help them with some maintenance work.

The next day, he entered the grounds of Alexandra Primary School.

"He did not attend there as a child, he has no children of his own, nor does he have any relation who attends that school and neither was he there at the request of any other person," a police summary said.

Rawson first spoke with some of the children on the programme before entering a classroom where some children were watching a movie while waiting for their parents.

A member of staff approached him, assuming he was a parent, but the man said he was "just looking".

The exchange was not enough to keep Rawson away. He was back the following day and picked out the 7-year-old girl.

Rawson sat next to the girl at a picnic table where he asked her personal questions about where she lived, her pets and her family. He gave the girl a lolly which she ate.

After gripping the girl's right thigh, he took hold of her left ankle, pulling it on to his lap to "look at a scab".

The same member of staff who had approached Rawson the previous day intervened and sat with the pair, but the defendant turned around and pretended to be using his phone.

She later saw the girl on her scooter following the man towards the school car park and called for her to come back.

Rawson was later spotted behind a shed watching a group of children playing basketball.

He left the scene before police arrived but when speaking to officers he later explained the victim had asked her to hold her leg while showing him scratches on it.

Defence counsel James Rapley said his client had since engaged with a psychologist and had support from family and friends who wanted to ensure he had "a lifestyle that's appropriate".

Judge Michael Crosbie said there were "sinister overtones" to the incident, despite it being a low-level charge.

"This is . . . rather odd offending and it would appear completely out of character," he said.

Rawson had no previous convictions, the court heard.

In a letter before the judge, the mother of the victim said the man had "stolen part of her [daughter's] innocence".

The girl's parents - "rather charitably", the judge said – hoped the defendant got the help he needed.

Rawson was sentenced to 12 months' intensive supervision. 

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