Newcastle District Court
Through plea bargaining, a plea of guilty was accepted to sexual assault by digital penetration of a girl aged 14 with a further count of Indecent Assault to be taken into account on a Form 1 or Schedule. The indecent assault involved touching the girl on the breast. There was consent to the sexual assault, however a person aged 14 cannot consent to sexual intercourse.
The matter was initially dealt with at Newcastle Local Court – which was rare – but within the law for the offence charged.
The offence carries a potential sentence of 10 years if dealt with in the District Court. By dealing with the matter in the Local Court, the potential sentence was significantly diminished.
In the Local Court, the client was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment with a further 7 months on parole. A severity appeal was lodged and appeal bail granted.
On appeal, the Newcastle District Court Judge agreed that special circumstances existed and reduced the head sentence to 10 months. The client was happy with the outcome and genuinely remorseful for his actions.
The importance of obtaining the advice of a criminal law specialist cannot be over emphasized.
In this case, the real issue was one of damage control. Keeping the matter in the Local Court was a significant factor in obtaining a short prison sentence. By pleading guilty to an appropriate set of agreed facts, the victim was spared from giving evidence. The utilitarian value of the plea was significant.
The Judge was impressed that the client had commenced rehabilitation through a respected sex offender’s course. Mental health issues involving bi-polar disorder were raised. There had been a degree of extra-curial punishment after the offending behaviour was reported in local media.