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NZ: Protest over child abuse comedian's release (Auckland)

Publish Date: 09 Sep 2011
Source: ONE News

Source: Thinkstock

The controversial release without conviction of a comedian on child abuse charges has outraged an advocacy group.

The Coalition for the Safety of Women and Children is holding a picket outside the Auckland District Court on Monday in an effort to remind judges and the public that sexual assault is unacceptable.

"The comedian who admitted sexually abusing his daughter and received no conviction and no treatment remains a threat to children," says Leonie Morris, spokesperson for the CSWC.

"Everyone who commits a sexual offence must be held accountable, and Judge Cunningham should have convicted the comedian and directed him to attend sexual offender treatment," Morris said, pointing out that treatment through providers such as SAFE dramatically reduces the likelihood of reoffending.

"It is outrageous that the man's profession as a comedian and his ability to 'make people laugh' contributed to Judge Cunningham's decision."

The man, who has permanent name suppression, pleaded guilty in March of this year to committing an indecent act against a child.

He appeared in the Auckland District Court last week for sentencing, but was discharged without conviction for the incident that occurred in 2009.

The incident happened after a Christmas party held in central Auckland, and after the man had been on a 12-hour drinking binge.

During the trial the court heard how later in the evening he got into bed with his partner, and after having his sexual advances refused, the pair went to sleep.

The child then got into bed. The man awoke some time later, pulled down the girl's pyjama pants and her pull-up nappies, and began kissing her. The partner woke up, and when she asked what he was doing, he replied "I thought it was you".

Judge Cunningham said she accepted that the man had little consciousness at the time of the event and that a psychiatric report had revealed he had no paedophilic tendencies. She also noted the event was not premeditated, the man was extremely remorseful and had already had his income halved by the incident.

After handing down the sentence to the comedian, Judge Cunningham said he was a talented man who made people laugh.

"Laughter's a good medicine ... and something that we all need a little of," she said.

However, the Coalition believes the outcome of the case sends the message that offenders can escape from the consequences of committing illegal and deplorable acts of sexual violence.

They also believe the decision demonstrates that the protection of children is secondary to the continuation of an offender's career.

The man has previously been charged with unlawful sexual connection and was not convicted in that case either.

Copyright © 2011, Television New Zealand Limited

Note:  Stop Demand's founder, Denise Ritchie, was part of the protest group outside the Auckland District Court.

NZ: Comedian discharged over sex act on daughter

Publish Date: 02 Sep 2011
Source: Stuff
By: Ian Steward

A well-known comedian and entertainer who performed a sex act on his four-year-old daughter has been discharged without conviction despite pleading guilty.

The man, who has permanent name suppression, appeared in Auckland District Court today for sentence before Judge Philippa Cunningham.

At the beginning of his trial in March he pleaded guilty to doing an indecent act on a child.

The judge said today the effects of a conviction "outweighed the gravity of the offending" and awarded a discharge without conviction.

A large group of supporters cried and congratulated each other as the judge gave her decision.

The judge said where the offending took place - the girl was in bed with her mother, the man's partner - was "extremely unusual".

The police statement of facts said the man came home from a work Christmas function in December 2009 and went to bed with his partner.

He had been drinking for 12 hours and his level of intoxication was "high".

The judge said he made sexual advances toward his partner that were refused.

In the early hours of the morning the couple's daughter got into bed with them.

The woman awoke to find the man had taken the girl's pyjama pants and her pull-up nappy down and was kissing her.

The judge said he told his partner: "I thought it was you."

Crown prosecutor Josh Shaw said it could not be claimed that the offending was a case of mistaking the girl for his partner.

Mistaken identity could have been a defence to the charge but the comedian had pleaded guilty, so mistaken identity had to be discarded.

"There's an admission that he knew who it was and he performed the act nonetheless.''

The offence could also not be considered less serious because alcohol was a factor, Shaw said.

The young victim's mother, who was in a relationship with the man at the time, read a tearful victim impact statement to the court in which she said their family had been "suddenly broken".

"Waking up to see the incident between _____ and my daughter was a tremendous shock.''

She felt her only option was to call the police and protect her daughter.

The woman said she had had flash-backs for months and it had taken a huge toll on her daughter.

She said the man had been a great dad but after seeing the incident "I didn't know who this man was.''

She and her daughter had both been through counselling.

"He was one of the people who was meant to keep her safe and secure and he broke that trust."

Judge Cunningham said the case was very unusual because most offending against children occurred in secret, and certainly not right next to a mother who would do anything to protect her child.

The man had "paid an extremely high price already", she said.

He was now separated from his partner and saw his two daughters only twice a week under supervision.

His television career had stopped, his income had halved and "his aspiring career has all but come to an end".

The entertainer's lawyer, Marie Dyhrberg, argued that her client should not have a conviction entered against him on the grounds of the great price he had already incurred professionally and the effect of a conviction on finding future work.

Shaw said discharging a person without conviction amounted to an acquittal, and after the man had pleaded guilty and admitted the act, such a discharge would carry no deterrent effect.

Judge Cunningham said there was a breach of trust against a vulnerable victim but she had difficulty working out the effect on the child.

She said from seeing the child's video interview she was struck by the girl's wish to see and be with her father.

The man had demonstrated significant remorse and had taken all steps to ensure that he would not reoffend.

The judge said despite suppression orders it was widely known in his industry who he was.

"He must have significant strength of character to deal with all of that."

A "small telephone book" of references described him in glowing terms.

"He's a talented New Zealander. He makes people laugh and laughter's a good medicine that we all need a lot of."

The judge said voluntary community work would be a condition of his discharge but it could be carried out using the comedian's "talents" in rest homes or schools.

"There's plenty of material around with the World Cup,'' she said.

A doctor's report said the man had had several occasions in the past of "odd" incidents occurring after waking up after drinking and not having knowledge of what he did.

The entertainer had since sworn off alcohol completely and he did not have any "paedophilic tendencies", the doctor said.

Copyright © 2011 Fairfax New Zealand Limited