Man who assaulted elderly widow then chased girl through park sentenced

Warning: Distressing content

A man who chased a schoolgirl through a park and touched her inappropriately had done the same to an elderly widow who was gardening just moments before, leaving her feeling unsafe, dirty and paranoid.

Praneel Chand approached the 14-year-old who was on her way to school, asking her “Any chance you want to f***?” before chasing and assaulting her.

Minutes earlier, he had approached an elderly widow from behind and assaulted her while she was gardening.

Chand, 25, appeared in Christchurch District Court last Tuesday for sentencing on charges of male assaults female and resisting police.

According to the summary of facts, about 11am on November 24, 2021, a woman now aged 71 was outside her fence on Smith St on her hands and knees gardening.

Chand approached her from behind and pushed his fingers over her genital area over her clothing. The woman screamed and Chand ran away to nearby Linwood Park.

Moments later he saw a young girl in her school uniform walking through the park. He approached her and said, “Any chance you want to f***?”

The girl said no and walked away, but Chand repeated the question before chasing and touching her inappropriately. The girl screamed and managed to run away.

Police found Chand a short time later and placed him under arrest. He began thrashing around, kicking out at the constable and spitting at them.

In a victim impact statement from the 71-year-old victim read to the court by Crown prosecutor Leandra Fiennes, the woman described feeling unsafe after the assault.

The woman has been unable to garden since the assault as she had flashbacks and became anxious when she found out Chand lived in the same area as her.

The court also heard from the schoolgirl’s mother through a victim impact statement, stating her daughter had become withdrawn, introverted and had issues with self-confidence after the assault.

She also felt as though the charge Chand was sentenced on didn’t reflect what her daughter had gone through.

Judge Michael Crosbie said initially Chand faced much more serious charges, but as it was unlikely the Crown could prove the “mental element” required for the charges, they were amended to the lesser charge of male assaults female, which Chand promptly pleaded guilty to.

Judge Crosbie said the offending had “sexual overtones” but it was clear Chand had accepted and taken full responsibility for what he had done.

Chand’s lawyer Kerri Bell said her client participated in a restorative justice meeting with the schoolgirl’s mother which was “relatively successful”. She said Chand had completed counselling and was committed to maintaining his sobriety.

The court heard Chand was under the influence of alcohol and drugs at the time of the offending, something the schoolgirl’s mother said didn’t justify what happened.

Judge Crosbie said Chand’s offending had greatly unsettled the elderly woman and the young girl, who was somewhat naïve and innocent.

“On that day the world became scarier for her, that’s the reality of what you’ve done Mr Chand.”

Judge Crosbie reminded Chand to think about the effect his actions had on the victims and their families and urged him to remain drug- and alcohol-free.

He sentenced Chand to two years of intensive supervision and six months of community detention.

By Emily Moorhouse
Open Justice multimedia journalist