A Disturbing Trend in Child Sexual Assault Cases

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write By Blake O’Connor and Ugur Nedim

An Illawarra man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is currently on trial in Wollongong District Court for sexual acts performed on a dog and for molesting his granddaughter.

The child sexual abuse is alleged to have occurred on multiple occasions in the mid-2000s when the girl was aged between 8 and 10 years. The alleged conduct included fondling the young girl’s breasts and digitally penetrating her vagina. There are two further charges of committing an act of indecency in front of the child, one of which involved masturbating himself, and the other masturbating his pet dog to the point of ejaculation.

The complainant, who is now a young woman, told her mother about the alleged conduct in 2013, which prompted the family to confront the man who allegedly fell to his knees and said: “what have I done, I’m so sorry, please forgive me”.

The man has denied the allegations and is defending the charges, with his criminal defence barrister telling the court:

““These allegations only came to light in 2014 after my client refused to continue giving money to his daughter,” the barrister said.

“It appears his wife had been subsidising her for some years, unknown to my client.

“He continued to help her after his wife’s death but in 2014 refused to keep giving her money.

“That’s when she threatened that she would send him to gaol.”

The trial is being heard by a judge alone.

193 Child Sex Charges

In another case 27-year old high-profile BMX rider Fabian Roy Meharry recently pleaded guilty to performing sexual acts on children between the ages of 12 and 16, and upon animals, in Melbourne between 2007 and 2015. He filmed the acts to bolster his pornography collection.

In all, Mr Meharry pleaded guilty to 193 charges including sexual assault children, forcing two girls to perform sex acts on a dog and compelling a boy and the boy’s sister to perform acts on each other.

Magistrate Belinda Wellington of the County Court of Victoria praised the prosecution and defence for their efforts in resolving the matter. She also acknowledged that Mr Meharry’s acceptance of guilt would lead to a more lenient sentence.

“Although a lot of the material is quite shocking, you also deserve credit for your effort in resolving it”, she said.

Mr Meharry will next attend court in December to set a date for his sentencing.

Child Sexual Assault in NSW

Child sexual assault offences carry some of most severe penalties of any crimes in NSW.

The offence of ‘sexual intercourse with a child under 10’, for example, carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment – and ‘life’ in NSW means the term of a person’s natural life, unless the court sets a non-parole period (which is the minimum period a person must spend behind bars before becoming eligible to apply for release).

Sexual Acts upon Animals

Sexual assaults upon animals are not as rare as some might think.

Last year, there were 80 reported cases of bestiality in NSW alone, as well as 6 cases of attempted bestiality. The number of reported cases has risen significantly over the past decade, and there is little doubt that the prevalence of the offence far exceeds the reported number.

The offence of bestiality is contained in section 79 of the NSW Crimes Act, and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. Attempted bestiality is covered by section 80, which prescribes a maximum penalty of 5 years.

Link between Abusing Animals and Crimes against Humans

Many high profile Australian killers are reported to have committed acts of cruelty against animals before moving on to humans.

Both Port Arthur gunman Martin Bryant and backpacker killer Ivan Milat, for example, are reported to have had long histories of torturing and abusing animals.

A study by Dr John Clarke found that 61.5% of convicted animal abuse offenders had also committed an assault against humans, whilst 17% had committed sexual abuse against people and 8% had arson convictions.

Protecting Animals

Aside from their powers under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002, police officers are given the power to investigate animal abuse under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, including the power to:

– Seize evidence;
– Obtain search warrants;
– Take animals suspected of having being subjected to cruelty, and
– Demand a suspect’s name and address.

Given the vulnerability of animals and the link between animal cruelty and crimes against humans, there is certainly a need to treat such matters seriously, and to prosecute offenders accordingly.

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