Why judge let child sex attacker off

THE parents of a girl sexually assaulted by Ronald King say they didn't get the chance to tell the court how the assault affected their daughter because they weren't informed of the sentencing date.

King's sentence has been criticised by the victim's family, the NSW Opposition and child protection groups for being too lenient.

King received a two-year suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 10.

The 24-year-old admitted he entered a South Grafton home in November 2007 and sexually assaulted a four-year-old girl in her bed.

The suspended sentence meant he was allowed to walk free after spending 14 months in custody, despite the offence carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years, with a standard non-parole period of 15 years.

The judge's reasoning behind the sentence was released yesterday, two days after Attorney-General John Hatzistergos publicly said the judgement had been suppressed.

The Supreme Court of NSW released the judgement after contacting the presiding judge to verify what he had suppressed with his non-publication order.

His Honour Judge Chris Geraghty confirmed on Thursday that the order was made only to protect the victim.

This meant the judgement could now be released to the public, providing answers to the questions being asked by the victim's parents and community members about the seemingly-lenient sentence.

In the judgement, Judge Geraghty began by explaining that the minimum sentence was automatically reduced by 50 per cent because King pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and confessed to the crime.

He said if King hadn't confessed it was unlikely he would have been convicted because of the age of the testifying victim and the lack of DNA evidence proving rape.

However, Judge Geraghty also said that King was on two suspended sentences at the time of the offence and his criminal record did 'disentitle him from an element of leniency'.

Despite King's prior record and the seriousness of the crime, Judge Geraghty said there were several mitigating factors that had to be considered when sentencing the defendant.

He said the crime was at the lower end of the scale because it involved a short act of digital penetration, there was no threat or persuasion used and King did not know the victim.

As well, Judge Geraghty said King's obvious shame and remorse indicated there was little likelihood of him reoffending, describing the attack as 'a moment of drunken madness'.

He said the crime was further mitigated by evidence before him that indicated the victim suffered no continuing physical or psychological damage.

This last fact was strongly rejected by the victim's father, who said the family didn't get the chance to submit evidence at the sentencing.

He said the family was told it could make a submission but no-one contacted him to inform them of the sentencing date.

In fact, the family only found out King had been sentenced when The Daily Examiner called them three weeks after the sentence was handed down.

When The Daily Examiner contacted the family yesterday, they said they hadn't seen the judgement or been given any information about it. They asked to see a copy.

After reading the 13 pages of judgement, the girl's father said he strongly disagreed with Judge Geraghty's reasoning and looked forward to the sentence appeal.

“I don't care how much remorse King's shown,” he said.

“For what he's done he should be put away for the 25 years he can get for it.

“He should pay for what he has done.

“You get more jail time for assaulting somebody or for selling drugs.

“I think that the judge needs to be looked at again and he needs to explain himself a bit better,” the father said.

He said his daughter's personality changed markedly after the attack, becoming violent and angry and distancing herself from other people.

While counselling was helping his now five-year-old daughter, he said she still had nightmares and often asked if 'the naughty man is in jail'.

“She won't do anything with the other kids at school and just gets really violent, and she was never like that before,” he said.

The father said the sentence may have been different if the impact on the victim had been given more weight.

The judge did consider whether King was a threat to the community. Although assessed by Probation and Parole as having a high risk of reoffending, Judge Geraghty said he believed the risk was mainly due to drug and alcohol abuse.

King had been binge drinking before the assault and the judge told him during sentencing that drinking was what 'leads you astray' and 'makes you do terrible things'.

A court-appointed psychologist recommended King receives mental health counselling after diagnosing him as having 'multiple problems of an intellectual, social and psychological type'.

Judge Geraghty noted that King was not able to receive counselling in jail as he was in protective custody.

“It is unimaginable what he did and a serious assault on a vulnerable person of the community”

- Judge Geraghty

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